These days, the phrase "plain cheese pizza" is a bit of an oxymoron since enterprising chefs keep upping the ante in terms of creatives takes on the traditional pie. Houston pizza purveyors have followed suite; here are five innovative pies to try in Houston just in time for National Cheese Pizza Day.
5. Tuscan Six Cheese (Papa John's). "Six cheeses?!? That's just too many. I will not eat it." Well, fine, hypocrite; it's just two more than the standard quattro formaggi and I don't see you complaining about seven-layer dip. Anyway, here's the fromage line-up: mozzarella, provolone, fontina, parmesan, asiago, and romano. Sounds like a cheesy boy band. (Har.) Tastes likes a cheese pizza to the nth power.
4. Saag Paneer (Bombay Pizza Company). An Indian riff on the traditional multi-cheese pizza, the Saag Paneer features goat cheese, mozzarella, fontina, and, of course, paneer cheeses along with spinach and collard greens. In addition to satisfying your RDA of calcium and non-heme iron, this pizza also contains just enough spice to give your tongue a bit of a tickle.
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3. Quattro Formaggi (Piola). Combining gorgonzola, brie, grana padano, and mozzarella cheeses, the Quattro Formaggi is one rich, pungent pie. Fortunately, a relatively thin crust allows you to eat more than one slice of this pizza. Rebellious diners might consider folding the entire pizza in half to produce doppio formaggi calzone.
2. Cheese Bomb (Pizza L'Vino). One of the top-selling vegetarian pizzas at Pizza L'Vino, the "cheese bomb" initially terrified me with its description: "white parmesaeno sauce, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, spinach, broccoli, ricotta, provolone, parmesan and mozzarella." I didn't know if I could handle that much cream and cruciferous vegetable matter, not to mention, caramelized onions, possibly my all time-favorite toppings. And wouldn't everything just sort of blend together? Actually, no, if you take owner Ed Barnett's advice: "[the cheeses] all retain their own identity that can be discerned if one has the self control to eat slowly enough to taste all the subtle nuances." So, that's what I did. At least for the first slice.
1. Classic (Pink's). The "classic" pizza at Pink's will satisfy cheese pizza purists and more flexible pie-eaters with its simple but not simplistic combination of feta, pecorino romano, and mozzarella cheeses. Garlic and basil round out the heavy dairy with some welcome herbal notes while roma and sun-dried tomatoes add a touch of fruity sweetness.