Houston pizza snobs rejoice. A chef who’s trained under America’s foremost pizzaiolo has set up shop in Houston.
Chef Angelo Emiliani spent two years working in Los Angeles for Chris Bianco, the James Beard Award-winning pizza mastermind behind Pizzeria Bianco, widely considered America’s high temple of pizza. Last week, the native Houstonian drove his mobile pizza oven back home and set up his Angie’s Pizza pop-up at the East End wine bar How to Survive on Land and Sea. Beginning this week, he’s serving pizza from 5-10 pm every Wednesday through Saturday for the immediate future.
Emiliani had plans to continue working for Bianco in L.A., but the pandemic prompted him in a different direction.
“I decided I was done kind of working for people,” he tells CultureMap. “I wanted to do my own thing. Just thought it was a good time to head back.”
That desire to come home led him to Jeff Kaplan and The Plant, the East End development that’s home to How to Survive and the upcoming location of Giant Leap Coffee. Kaplan connected Emiliani with How to Survive owner Mike Sammons, and the two quickly realized the wine bar could be the right place for the chef to introduce himself to Houstonians.
Following Bianco’s techniques, Emiliani cooks his wood-fired pizzas at a lower temperature and for a longer time than a traditional Neapolitan pie. Rather than importing flour, he uses grain that’s been milled in Texas at Barton Springs Mill. In addition, the chef uses other ingredients from the Lone Star State such as buffalo mozzarella and pepperoni that’s made in Austin.
“The first time I went to Pizzeria Bianco was life-changing for me,” Emiliani says. “The way he cooks his pizzas, I find it’s better. We try to emulate that to the best of our ability.”
To start, Emiliani will serve three or four pizzas: a classic margherita, pepperoni, a seasonal pie made with locally sourced ingredients, and a vegan option. Over time, the menu will expand to include antipasti, salads, and even a dessert or two.
If the pop-up finds an audience and Sammons and Emiliani find they work well together, Sammons says that How to Survive could evolve into a pizzeria like Austin’s Bufalina, an acclaimed, Neapolitan-style pizzeria with an extensive wine list.
“The idea is super casual, but very precise with a small menu that’s well tuned,” Sammons says. “That’s what we’re shooting for. I think it’s going to be a game changer for the East End. There’s nothing like that.”