Chef Chat

Chef Chat, Part 3: Bill and Matt Hutchinson of Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana

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

This is part three of a three-part Chef Chat series. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

This week, Bill and Matt Hutchinson -- the father-and-son team at the strikingly unique, unequivocally delicious Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana -- told us how they left their previous jobs to pursue the dream of opening an authentic, thin-crust, cooked-in-90-seconds Napoletana pizzeria.

Using fresh ingredients like mozzarella and pizza sauce that are made fresh daily, flour imported from Italy and other high-quality ingredients, the true test of their pizza is when you take your first bite. And from the moment I took mine, a few weeks ago, I've been hooked.

For our tasting, we began with a simply prepared Caesar salad. Served on a simple paper plate, the no-nonsense presentation belied the robust flavors in this classically prepared salad. Deep anchovy-garlic flavored dressing with the perfect amount of acidic tanginess lightly coated the chopped romaine leaves, while nicely crisp, well-sized croutons and a sprinkling of grated parmesan finished off this excellent salad. "You should enter the annual Caesar salad competition," I proclaimed after taking a few bites, impressed.

Next came one of the specialty pizzas, an off-menu Iberico ham pizza topped with a small mound of arugula in a citrus vinaigrette. Made with a garlic and olive oil base, the pizza was light yet flavorful, the slightly chewy pieces of aged Iberico ham giving the pizza a Spanish element that I'd readily revisit (read: add this to the regular menu).

My favorite of the night was the stuffed-crust margherita pizza, or Cornicione di Ricotta e Spinaci. The crust, which had been generously stuffed with fluffy, house-made ricotta cheese and cooked spinach, reminded me of a heartier calzone. Almost bland in flavor when compared to the red sauce, mozzarella and basil that made up the middle portion of the pizza, the stuffed crust was almost like a dish unto itself. I nibbled on the middle away, then left the crust to eat all together at the end; it was like eating two pizzas in one.

We also tried the fino, another white sauce pizza topped with cured fennel sausage, goat cheese, garlic and mozzarella. The fino came out looking like it had been blanketed by a layer of cheese, but a few bites confirmed that the goat cheese was there, as were the sausages and garlic. One of their most popular pizzas, this was my least favorite of the three only because I found the goat cheese flavor somewhat overpowering. Least favorite doesn't really mean I'm complaining, however, because the crust was still fantastic, and the pizza was still quite delicious.

In fact, I could wax poetic about the crust all day long. It's light and springy, crispy yet airy, moist and soft in the middle, and so delicious that I can greedily finish off an entire 12-inch pizza by myself. Thank goodness for that Italian wood-burning oven, because without it, Bill might still be in Austin and Matt might still be in Atlanta, but instead, they're here in Houston churning out some of the best pizzas you'll taste in Houston.

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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