Like so many things in life, the crux any amazing pizza lies in its foundation — the crust. When starting with an outstanding crust, much can be forgiven in the way of sauce, cheese and ingredients. Not that those elements need much in the way of forgiveness at beloved Upper Kirby pie joint, Pizzeria Solario.
The wood-fired pizzeria off Weslayan has been slinging authentic Neaopolitan style pizzas with house-made ingredients and heavenly charred crusts since 2013. The kitchen, run by executive chef Currie "Cactus" McRee IV also deals in cozy, old-country pasta dishes and some traditional anti-pasta standards.
Located below a mid-rise apartment complex in a perpetually hectic business district, the modern hole-in-the-wall Italian concept has all the familiar aesthetics of a rustic Italian kitchen. Wine bottles and Italian-inspired artwork line the walls while tables are set with silver ware and wine glasses at each seat. Not a bad shooting location for a mob movie set in Houston, now that we think about it.
Pies are separated into two traditional categories; white and red. The latter being your standard tomato sauce-based Neapolitan, while the former is a sauceless variety. Housemade ingredients like sopressata and Italian sausage varieties add discernible character to each pie, while the crusts — baked at over 900 degrees — come out charred and crispy around the edges while pillowy soft inside. Not too thin, the hearty crusts hold the considerable amount of mozzarella, sauce and toppings without losing rigidity or, surprisingly, crunch. This is also helped by the pie's smaller diameter, packing more sauce and cheese onto a smaller pie rather than stretching out into something paper thin.
The tomato sauce in the red pies has an undeniable sweetness, which plays wonderfully against traditional salsiccia, pepperoni, or sopressata, but may overpower against sweeter toppings like peppers, onions and sweet sausage.
While this could be a glowing review on the pies alone, chef McRee has curated a menu of elevated pastas and an Italian-leaning wine list that, by themselves, are reason enough to visit. I was delighted to find the ragu bolognese prepared with pappardelle — the rustic, ribbon-style pasta is a staple in every Nonna's kitchen from Sicily to Milan.
Perhaps our only real complaint is the price. At around $17 for each 12-14" pie, you're looking at spending a not-insignificant amount on a date night complete with anti-pasta and vino. This isn't exactly the kind of place you order four or five pies to watch football with the fellas — unless you can afford that. In which case, mazel tov.
However, if you allow yourself to see Pizzeria Solario for the upscale, inspired Italian kitchen it truly is, the prices start to feel much more reasonable. After all, you're paying for quality, and getting it in abundance.