The Rest of the Best

Houston's top 10 pizzas.

4. Dolce Vita

Marco Wiles's pizza joint is, to some, a blatant rip-off of Mario Batali's Otto in New York City — but who cares? The fact of the matter is that it brought better pizza to Houston and showed the city that there's more to pizza than just the oversauced, overcheesed pies served at sleepovers and Little League games. These Italian-style pizzas feature thin crusts and high-end ingredients, like the noteworthy pear-and-taleggio pizza. Appetizers are wonderful too, from the roasted beets with horseradish to a buttery egg toast topped with shaved black truffle. Although Dolce Vita was temporarily closed by a fire earlier this year, the restaurant is back now and as good as it ever was.

3. Piola

Ethiopian food doesn't typically photograph well, but Lucy's does.
Katharine Shilcutt
Ethiopian food doesn't typically photograph well, but Lucy's does.

This brightly outfitted Midtown pizza place is always packed — and its patio is especially inviting this time of year — with good reason: The pizza has only steadily improved since it first opened, although the menu of several dozen pizzas is still (in my opinion) far too long. Piola, which is headquartered in Italy but which does a brisk business in Brazil, is also one of only two places in town where you can find catipury cheese (the other being Friends Pizzeria), that unbelievably creamy Brazilian cheese that comes out in fat dollops like mozzarella but spreads like a triple-crème Brie. That's what makes the Salvadore my favorite, with that catipury cheese melting into roasted chicken and spinach, but the Mantova — beef carpaccio with Brie, diced tomatoes and arugula — is a close runner-up.

2. The Pass & Provisions

The whole idea behind Provisions, the casual side of two-in-one-restaurant The Pass & Provisions, was to offer simple food that chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan would want to eat themselves while relaxing: things like big bowls of pasta, meatball sandwiches and pizzas. But being the creative types, Siegel-Gardner and Gallivan couldn't just keep their pizza toppings confined to pepperoni and sausage. Instead, you'll find inventive ingredients such as uni with guanciale, potato with taleggio and burrata with burst tomatoes. And because the pizzas come out of a wood-fired oven that cooks them in around 90 seconds, you'll get a nicely charred pie every time.

1. Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana

Pizaro's became an instant classic almost the moment that Bill Hutchinson opened its doors in a Memorial-area strip mall, because there's nothing else like it in town. The Napoletana-style pizza cooks in 90 seconds in a wood-fired 900-degree oven that's the centerpiece of the small, bare-bones dining room. What emerges from the belly of the fiery beast is a pizza with perfectly pillowy crust and wonderfully scorched bottom, topped with fresh mozzarella made on-site daily and San Marzano tomatoes. Bring your own wine when you come and prepare to sit a spell — the rest of the city has discovered Pizaro's, too, but the wait is always worth it.


A Few Bumps in the Road
Berryhill Baja Grill Food Truck hitting the streets.

Walter Berryhill was a mobile food pioneer in Houston, walking the streets of River Oaks and selling 200 dozen tamales from his little push-cart every week along with his wife, Billie, for nearly 40 years. A lit Coleman lantern hanging from the side of the cart let people know that Berryhill's tamales were fresh and hot. In the 1960s, with Billie in failing health, Walter sold his push-cart and recipe to River Oaks resident and attorney Bob Tarrant, a fan of Berryhill's cornmeal and masa-laced tamales, who held fast to the recipe for two decades.

In 1993, Tarrant teamed up with Chuck Bulnes to create the very first Berryhill's Baja Grill restaurant, which still sells its popular tamales and Baja-style fish tacos (which are said to have been the first fish tacos in Texas) on Revere at Westheimer. A few years later, customer Jeff Anon purchased the restaurant (and Walter Berryhill's recipes), finding that he loved the food so much he couldn't help but want Berryhill to become bigger and better.

It's only fitting, Anon says, that after all this time, Berryhill Baja Grill is getting back into the mobile food business. A custom-built food truck was delivered to Anon from Miami, Florida, back in August. And while it's been far tougher than Anon expected to get the truck on the road, he's excited about the tamales he loves coming full circle.

"I pity the poor people whose entire living is tied up in these food trucks," Anon said as he eagerly gave a guided tour of the truck despite last Friday's downpour. The truck is still waiting for a City-approved sink before it can receive its "medallion," part of the permit package which allows the Berryhill truck to start serving the public.

The sink that Anon had originally installed wasn't quite deep enough, a niggling detail that turned out to be only one of many that vexed the Berryhill team.

"It needed to be one-and-a-half inches deeper," said Anon, shaking his head. "We also needed a bigger vent hood," he said, beginning to list off all the issues the City permitting department found in his custom-built truck. "They needed to see all of the schematics, all of the electrical plans. Are you kidding me?" he said, visibly frustrated.

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I have enjoyed the pizza at Napoli Italian at 14743 Memorial Drive and all six locations for over a decade.  Papa Zack has kept the highest quality ingredients and prices are very reasonable...  Napoli has great pasta, shrimp, calamari, and chicken parmesan, veal parmesan, and great sausage and meatballs.  The Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo is amazing!  It gets my vote for #1 Casual Italian.

I love Dolce Vita in Montrose also.  I love the marinara, meatballs, and salads are outstanding!  Totally different pizza places where Napoli is traditional what I grew up with where Dolce Vita is wood fired pizza with high quality ingredients.  I love the ambiance in Dolce Vita...  both get my vote for #1 Pizza in Houston Texas!