A slice of the Big Apple
Diners who walk into the Montrose location of Pizaro’s Pizza Napoletana this week will notice a big change behind the counter. To left of the familiar wood-burning ovens now sits a new piece of equipment: a three-deck, gas-fired pizza oven.
Neapolitan-style pizza, a house specialty, is not cooked in a deck oven, which is precisely the point. Pizaro’s is finally ready to put its stamp on New York-style pizza.
Approximately one year after introducing Detroit-style pizza to its menu — a variation on Sicilian “grandma-style” deep-dish pizza that's cooked in a rectangular pan and features a slightly burned layer of cheddar cheese along the crust, plus sauce that's added after it's baked — co-owner Nicole Bean tells CultureMap that, starting this week, the restaurant will begin serving New York-style pies.
“New York has been on our minds for a long time. We just weren’t ready for it,” Bean says. “It’s something people are super picky about. If they’re from New York, they want it to be a specific way. We didn’t want to let anybody down.”
Essentially, New York-style pizza is what most Americans think of when they want a “regular pizza.” It features a thinner, chewy crust with foldable slices that can be eaten by hand. Unlike Neapolitan pizzas, where toppings take a less-is-more approach, New York-style pies can run the gamut from plain cheese to a fully-loaded supreme.
Bean says that the success of the Detroit-style pizzas, which now account for approximately 40 percent of the restaurant’s sales, is what made she and her family (she operates the Montrose location with her husband Brad, and her father Bill Hutchinson and brother Matt Hutchinson are co-owners) feel comfortable about adding the new type of pizza to their menu.
In order to ensure that no one feels let down by Pizaro’s new pizza, Bean traveled to San Francisco to study at Tony Gemignani’s International School of Pizza. Gemignani is an award-winning pizza maker whose restaurant, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, serves a dozen different styles of pizza from seven different types of ovens, from wood-burning to New York-style coal-fired. Bean earned four certificates during her studies, which allowed her to develop the recipes for both the Detroit and New York-style pizzas.
“Tony provides a few recipes with different products. It’s a guideline, but it doesn’t mean I’m taking his recipe and saying ‘this is mine,’” Bean says. “Things change. The atmosphere changes.”
Pizaro’s will serve five pre-determined sets of toppings plus a build-your-own option. Selections include the Tri-State (smoked mozzarella and ricotta), Pepperoni Squared (sliced pepperoni and cupped pepperoni), the Dumbo (cupped pepperoni, sausage, red onion, mushrooms, red bell pepper), Meat Market (pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, ham), the Garden (white pizza with spinach, grape tomatoes, and feta). Available only as a 16-inch pie, the pizzas cook for approximately seven minutes at 550 degrees. Prices range from $19 to $28, but Pizaro’s is offering an introductory special until September 1: a two-topping pizza for only $14.99.
Bean says customers who’ve sampled the occasional test pie have responded favorably. “The reactions have been good. None of them were, ‘I hate this. Don’t do this,’” she says.
Unfortunately, the company’s original locale on Memorial Drive is too small to accommodate a deck oven that would allow it to serve the same menu the Montrose outpost.
As well, road construction in the area has caused the restaurant to lose business; thus, Bean is looking for a new location nearby that would allow customers to experience what Pizaro’s has become since opening inside the loop.
Since it opened in 2012, Pizaro’s has set the standard for Neapolitan pizza in Houston. Adding a deck oven and a full roster of both Detroit and New York-style pies should elevate it to the city’s premier pizzeria.