Chef Chat

Chef Chat, Part 2: Bill and Matt Hutchinson of Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana

Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana 14028 Memorial Drive 713-855-0085

This is part two of a three-part Chef Chat series. Read Part 1 here and Part 3 in this same space on Friday.

Yesterday, Bill and Matt Hutchinson told us how they left what they were doing to pursue the dream of opening an authentic Italian-style pizzeria. Today we talk about their respective roles and their philosophy behind the business.

EOW: So Matt is the recipe maker, right?

MH: For the most part, I do a lot of the stretching. He does some cooking and more of the outside stuff, like talking to people.

EOW: How is it working together?

MH: Good. We've certainly had our moments. But any business you have moments. It can get crazy, but I know that he wants what's best for the restaurant, I want what's best for the restaurant. And we feel really passionately about what we feel.


EOW: So, the menu right as it is now, did it start like that or has it evolved?

BH: It's evolved. We really have two types: We have traditional Italian pizza and the specialty pizzas. The traditional are just that -- the types you'd find in Italy. And the specialties are our spinoff on some of the pizzas, for example...

MH: Just ingredients, or any kind of inspiration from any kind of dish that you'd want to make a play on. Almost all of our pizzas come from us finding an ingredient that we really want to use, or that we think is really unique, like the iberico ham; it's really cool.

EOW: What do you do with the iberico ham? That's not on the menu, it's off-menu, right?

MH: Yes, it is kind of right now. It's sort of a specialty feature of the day.

BH: The traditional menu is what it is. The way the menu has evolved is -- we do a pizza of the day. And the pizza of the day is like our test pizza. So, if the pizza of the day does very very well, then it becomes part of our menu. The fume's become part of the menu, polpette, the fino, and the potato and mushroom that we do -- it's an absolutely delicious pie. Those are specialty ones, the ones we came up with, and we always try to get the ingredients to play together and contrast so you get a different variety in the taste.

EOW: The last time I was here around 6:30 p.m., and there were a lot of families. Tell me about the people that you get here.

MH: Wide range. Anything from families, soccer moms and dads coming by after an event, to young foodies. You can tell young "hipsters," and they have their bottle of wine or craft beer and they sit down with a growler and hang out.

EOW: Yes, love that it's BYOB!

MH: We get a wide range of different people here. It's interesting because we have just so many tables, and they're so close that sometimes two or three different tables will end up shouting across the restaurant and they all end up becoming one table by the end of the night, and they're all laughing and cheering with drinks and "You have to try this"...

BH: And really, the concept behind this idea, especially if you've been to an Italian pizzeria, is that you're walking in here, you're coming into our home to eat. We want you to be comfortable. We want you to be able to start a conversation with the party at the next table. We've had people share pizzas.

EOW: How many people does it seat?

BH: We have 60. It's meant to be small. It's meant to mimic an Italian pizzeria. We don't have a lot of ambience in here, because it's not about the ambience; it's not about coming in here and being wowed by what's on the wall. Our philosophy is we want to wow you with what's coming out of the oven. We let the food speak for itself.

EOW: What's the most number of pizzas you've made in an day?

BH: We can produce a pizza a minute. Friday and Saturday night, it's a pizza a minute.

EOW: And what's your most popular one?

BH: Everyone has their most popular one, but the margherita is absolutely very popular.

MH: The margherita is the most popular because you can take it and make it into whatever you want. As far as numbers, the margherita always sells. And pepperoni, because we're Americans, and no matter what, we can't get away from it. The campagna is popular, the calabrese, It's wide-ranging.

EOW: So, you've been here eight months. How long do you think it took for the restaurant to take off?

BH: A week.

EOW: Really? You just opened your doors and people started coming in?

BH: The first day we were here, we had a line out the door.

EOW: Did you advertise?

MH: We were trying to have a soft opening, actually, because we were a little nervous about having things in place. Most restaurants, by the time they finish building out and the time they open is usually two to six weeks. Ours was maybe four days, from the time we got the very last permit to our opening day.

EOW: And people just knew to come?

MH: Well, we'd been trying to open for so long. It took us about seven months from the time we signed the lease to the time we actually opened, which is a really long time.

EOW: What took so long?

BH: Well, the City of Houston didn't understand the oven, the way the oven worked. But one good thing we did was we put a big sign up saying "Coming Soon." We put a billboard up saying what Napoletana pizza is, we advertised the pizza would be cooked in 90 seconds, and the oven was parked two feet from the front window. So, there was a buzz; people were anticipating us opening. When we were building, we would have people coming out of the restaurant next door asking when we were opening.

EOW: And this area is considered what?

MH: Memorial. West side.

BH: So, it's a nice area, there's a tremendous amount of parking, high visibility.

MH: There's a lot of talking. A lot of people we get in will say, "Oh, we heard about it at the wedding, or we were at the clubhouse, or we were at the football game, and someone told us about it." So word of mouth has definitely been a big factor. It certainly helped that the second week we were open, J.C. Reid (@Houston_Foodie) came in and ate, and ever since he put that first excerpt on Twitter, the whole Twitterati movement when nuts.

EOW: That's how I heard about it! Okay, one thing I want to address is that you don't deliver.

BH: We don't deliver, we don't take phone orders.

EOW: Why not?

BH: We really get a bad rap for this. But the reason is we're uncompromising on the quality of the pizza. That's the most important thing. That's our brand: freshness. We don't want the pizza sitting around for 15 minutes, 20 minutes or even five minutes. The Napoletana pizzas are meant to be eaten fresh out of the oven.

EOW: But if they're taking it home, it's not going to be fresh anyway.

BH: Yeah, if you want to come and get it, that's fine with us; then you accept the pizza the way it is.

MH: We don't want to encourage that behavior. We let you do it, we're giving you the option, but it draws the line in the sand that this is not what we are. We're a step above that; we're not about pizza delivery.

EOW: Okay, one last question. You're both Hutchinsons, not Pizaros. Who is Pizaro?

MH: It's just a blend of the Italian word for bizarre, which is bizarro, and pizza. The definition for bizarre is "strikingly unique." So bizarro, which means "strikingly unique" in Italian, and pizza, so Pizaro's.

BH: Well, we really came up with the tagline "strikingly unique." Because it is strikingly unique pizza, so unique from what else is on the market today. And then if you look at the definition of bizarre, it says "strikingly unique." We couldn't call it Bizarro's, so Matt came up with the name Pizaro's.

Check back with us tomorrow as we taste some of their delicious Italian pies.

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Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham