100 Favorite Dishes

100 Favorite Dishes 2013: No. 79, Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria

This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of her personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape. It's a list to drool over.

For quite some time, Coppa Osteria's version of a meat-lover's pizza had no name.

I was told the story of the name's origin goes something like this: A large Italian family walked up to the doors of Coppa Osteria shortly after it opened in Rice Village a few months ago and realized that the place was empty because it was about to close. Not one to turn away customers, chef Brandi Key invited the 12 or so diners in, and upon discovering they were Italian, offered to make them some of her favorite and best dishes rather than having them order from the menu.

The meaty pizza was available, but hadn't yet been named, so Key brought out the pizza for the family and told them they could name it. The adults at the table contemplated it for a while, but didn't come up with anything that truly fit the meaty majesty of that particular pie. Then one of the children took a bite, and from the end of the table came a small but mighty voice: CARNISSIMA!

I don't know how accurate that re-telling is, but the name is perfect for this pizza. Carnissima, though not a real word in Italian, translates to "most meaty," and indeed, that pizza is the most meaty one on that -- or just about any other -- menu.

The pizzas at Coppa Osteria are baked in a wood-burning oven, so they get a great char on the bottom, and the crust gets crispy and dark-brown in spots around the edges. A 900-degree (or higher) oven is the perfect way to elicit the maximum flavor from the five different meats that top the thin-crust pizza.

The first meat I noticed when the pizza arrived, still sizzling, to my table was the Italian sausage, out of its casing and crumbled all over the pizza. If you think you know sausage on a pizza, think again. This house-made stunner of a sausage is spicier than most gray-colored pizza toppings of the same name, and it's smooth and slightly crisped from the oven -- never chewy.

Next, my tongue discovered the prosciutto, then the cured coppa, the salumi toscano, and finally, the pepperoni. Each meat is originated on a pig, but they are all cured and prepared differently (and from different cuts) to create a diversity of pork flavors all on one delectable round package.

The final product is drizzled with a parmesan cream sauce, but Chef Key recommends you order the pizza with a bit of scamorza, an Italian cheese similar to mozzarella. I also recommend this, and I recommend that Coppa just add scamorza to the list of ingredients on the pizza, because the smoky cow's milk cheese pairs so well with the spicy meats and smooth but funky Parmesan.

The Carnissima is truly the most meaty pizza I've ever eaten, and one of the best. Everything I love about pork all mixed together on top of cheese and bread? Hello, new friend. I've been waiting for you all my life.

The list so far: No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch

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Kaitlin Steinberg