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Pizza makers are just like barbecue joint owners — some are proud of their equipment, and some aren't. I stopped into a new pizzeria in a shopping center at Westheimer and Fountainview the other day and asked what kind of pizza oven they were using. What does the oven have to do with the taste of the pizza?" the owner asked elusively.

"You are using an impinger oven," I quickly concluded. The owner got pissed at me and gave me a long tirade about how many successful Dallas pizzerias use impinger ovens. I left without ordering anything.

At Russo's New York Coal-Fired Pizzeria, near the intersection of the Northwest Freeway and Highway 6, Anthony Russo is more than happy to talk about his oven.

Make sure to order your pie "extra-crispy."
Daniel Kramer
Make sure to order your pie "extra-crispy."

Location Info

Map

Russo's New York Coal-Fired Pizzeria

19817 NW Freeway
Houston, TX 77065

Category: Restaurant > Pizza

Region: Jersey Village

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Small pizza with one topping: $12

Large pizza with one topping: $17

Manhattan Special: $20

Extra toppings: $1.50

Salad: $5

19817 Northwest Fwy., 281-477-6002.

Russo is attempting to re-create the old-fashioned coal-fired pizzeria experience in a suburban strip center. Given the limitations of the location, he couldn't build a giant coal oven like they use at Pepe's. So instead, he imported a brick oven from Seattle. The oven was originally designed to burn wood, but Russo had it adapted for coal, which burns at a much hotter temperature. The new-fangled coal oven burns anthracite, a clean and virtually smokeless variety of coal.

But the superhot oven is only part of what Anthony Russo is doing right at his coal oven pizzeria. You don't get a pizza crust with this kind of fabulous texture unless you can turn out a high-rising, yeasty dough every day. And the only way to keep such a great pizza from getting gloppy is to teach every apprentice pizza maker in the place that you aren't doing your customers any favors when you pile too many toppings on the pie. And then there's the excellence of the toppings themselves.

As long as they can keep the oven hot, the dough yeasty and the toppings high in quality and low in quantity, Russo's New York Coal-Fired Pizzeria will have the best pie in Houston.

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