It's easy to find New York pizza outside of Houston. Just trek to Sugar Land or The Woodlands and visit a location of Brooklyn import Grimaldi's. Finding superior New York pizza in Houston requires a little more detective work, and the best clue is to follow the hats. Yankee hats, Giants caps and Knicks gear can usually be found at Two Guys Pizzeria, at the corner of Holcombe and Greenbriar near the Medical Center.
This pizza joint used to be a franchise of Russo's New York Pizza, until the proprietors went rogue a few years back and put up a Two Guys Pizzeria sign. The pies didn't change at first, but new owner Oscar Monte created a new crust and a new sauce and changed the cheese.
Even though "New York" was no longer in the store's name, he noticed an increase in customers from the Tri-State area. "It's the aroma," Monte said. "Customers come in and tell me it smells just like their favorite pizza place back home."
For lunch, I ordered a slice of cheese pizza for $4. The slices at Two Guys are huge, and one is enough for a meal. The regular crusts are New York-favorite thin crusts, but this slice had the Sicilian crust, which is thicker and breadier, but not too thick. It folds over nicely, allowing one to eat it Brooklyn-style. The cheese was high-quality mozzarella, with herbs emerging from within. After such a big slice, I'd leave the outer edge of the crust of a lesser pizza uneaten, but not the Two Guys' crust.
Returning on a Friday night for a carry-out cheese pizza, I noticed that the majority of customers were wearing East Coast reminders -- a Knicks jersey, a Yankees cap, sweatshirts from Syracuse and Connecticut. When I brought it home to my former New Yorker, she said it smelled just like a pizza should, and after taking a bite, she said, emphatically, "Yes!"
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Two Guys has a variety of specialty pizzas and some calzones that I will be trying. I asked Monte what Two Guys is known for, and he said that he sells a lot of his Supreme pizzas, but a lot of New Yorkers will simply order the cheese pizza, and sprinkle on a little oregano or parmesan.
Monte also shows expertise with his beer selection, with Stone and Dogfish IPA, hoppy versions of Karbach and Saint Arnold, and other beers such as Brooklyn Lager and $2 Lone Stars. He changes his selection often to keep it interesting. Two Guys is also BYOB for wine.
When I asked what makes New York pizza stand out, Monte said, "Well, you don't go to New York to get great Tex-Mex." Reaching for a humbler explanation, he added, "It's just a pie, like any other -- a great crust and delicious fillings, baked in a deck oven."