New pizzeria in the heights
Houston pizza maestro brings life of Pi to the Heights with his must-try new restaurant
One of Houston’s pizza masterminds is opening his first new pizzeria since 2016. Gold Tooth Tony’s has begun a soft opening in the Heights.
Located in the former Hugs & Donuts space at 1901 N. Shepherd Dr., Gold Tooth Tony’s marks chef Anthony Calleo’s return to operating a pizzeria for the first time since 2018, when he left Pi Pizza, the food truck-turned-restaurant where he earned acclaim for his creative pies. While the chef has been selling Detroit-style pizza at Rudyard’s, the iconic Montrose pub where he is executive chef and co-owner, the overall experience at Gold Tooth Tony’s is a little different.
“At Rudyard’s, aside from pizza, we have 34 other menu items. We’re not a pizza place,” Calleo tells CultureMap. “It doesn’t make sense to put time and energy into those eight or nine menu items when we have the entire rest of the building to run. I thought, what could we do if we just put all of our attention to it.”
Calleo is also aware of the restaurant’s timing. Via 313, the Austin-based pizzeria that has set the gold standard for Detroit-style pizza in Texas, is preparing to open its first Houston-area location near Memorial City Mall. A native Houstonian, Calleo sees opening Gold Tooth Tony’s as a locally-owned restaurant dedicated to Detroit-style pizza to be a matter of civic pride, even though he credits Via 313 for introducing him to the style.
“I decided I really wanted to try my hand at Detroit pizza after eating it at Via 313 in Austin 13 years ago, but I’m still from here,” he says. “I’d like to take a shot at it. I think it’s good. I think it’s maybe some of the best pizza I’ve made when it hits right.”
Making sure the pizza at Gold Tooth Tony’s hits right has involved revisited some of Calleo’s signature pizzas from the Pi days. Menu items such as the Outy5, the Grizz, and the 181 Heights all reference ingredients from the Pi menu that have been reworked to fit the deep dish crust and crispy edges that define Detroit-style pizza.
Of course, he’s developed some new pizzas as well. The Hunger Force starts with meatballs — a recipe Calleo has been refining since he operated Sandy Witch Sandwich Company at Grand Prize — along with whipped ricotta, because it takes a study dough to match the meatballs’ heft. Sebastian’s Big Idea — a Spam and pineapple pizza — is named for the child who suggested the combination to the chef. Of course, Calleo had to put his spin on the idea.
“We take Spam, sear it, cube it. Take fresh pineapple, throw it in a pizza oven until it caramelizes and chars. Toss it in togarashi. Cut it up into cubes. That goes onto pizza. It’s a Spam musubi Hawaiian pizza. I think it’s fun,” he explains.
The menu also includes three sandwiches: a meatball, an Italian-style hero, and a vegetarian sandwich made with tomatoes, arugula, feta, and a garlic-basil spread that Calleo calls “the sleeper on the menu.” A classic lasagna, wings in four flavors, and a couple of other snacks round out the menu.
For now, Gold Tooth Tony’s is only open for dinner and only serving the smaller, 8x10-inch version of its pizza. Over the next couple of weeks, the restaurant will add lunch and late night service — operating from 11 am until 1 am — and a larger, 10x14-inch pizza. Opening slowly reflects some of the lessons Calleo learned from Pi’s frantic early days.
“We’re in a position where we can do this right,” he says. “I know what busy feels like in a pizza place. I don’t think it’s helpful. You burn through staff. It’s okay to open slowly and figure it out.”