Sunday, February 5, 2012

Review: Pizaro's Pizza on Memorial & Kirkwood

Authentic Neapolitan Pizza (a/k/a Pizza Napoletana) are typically made with tomatoes and Mozzarella cheese. They can be made with ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes, which grow on the volcanic plains to the south of Mount Vesuvius, and mozzarella di bufala Campana, made with the milk from water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio in a semi-wild state (this mozzarella is protected with its own European protected designation of origin).

According to the rules proposed by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, the genuine Neapolitan pizza dough consists of wheat flour (type 0 or 00, or a mixture of both), natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer's yeast, salt and water. For proper results, strong flour with high protein content (as used for bread-making rather than cakes) must be used. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer. After the rising process, the dough must be formed by hand without the help of a rolling pin or other machine, and may be no more than 3 millimetres (0.12 in) thick. The pizza must be baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 °C (905 °F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire.

When cooked, it should be crispy, tender and fragrant. There are three official variants: pizza marinara, which is made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil, pizza Margherita, made with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra-virgin olive oil, and pizza Margherita extra made with tomato, mozzarella from Campania in fillets, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
Pizaro's Cook tossing Dough & Authentic Wood Fire Oven
Authentic Neopolitan Pizza that fits that description is available in Houston now at Pizaro's Pizza on Memorial & Kirkwood.  Per their website:
Prior to opening Pizaro's Pizza restaurant, Bill Hutchinson, General Partner, received his certification as a Pizzaiuolo from the Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) organization. Bill trained under the watchful eye of world renown Master Pizza Chef, Peppe Miele. In addition to this training, Bill and his wife and General Partner, Gloria have toured Italian pizzeria's to refine their skills and hone their Italian style pizza recipes.
Although I had yet to read any other reviews, after receiving an online tip about this place and doing a little research, I packed the kids up and we headed over there to give it a try.  We ordered a Margherita Pizza for here (Italian sausage on half) and took a Campania to go.  Without further blathering, here are your Pizza Blueprints:
Marghareta and Compania Pizzas 

Pizza Marghareta:
Crushed Pomodoro tomatoes 
with mozzarella and basil. 
Added Italian Sausage to half of it

Pizza Compania:
Crushed Pomodoro tomatoes 
oven roasted mushroom, artichoke
prosciutto cotto, black olives and mozzarella 

First of all let's talk about the crust: it was fragrant and fresh, crunchy on the outside (some nice charring--wood smoke added some flavour to it) very soft and spongy  on the inside, like baguette almost but thinner. The crust was moist in the center.  My son, who usually leaves the outside crust alone, ate it saying it was "too good to leave behind as pizza bones."

Pizaro's Cheese passed my kids' "String Test"
The Mozzarella cheese was not shredded but placed in medallion cuts throughout the surface of the pizza.  It was very fresh, light and quite stringy.  The mushrooms and olives on the Compnana were fresh and somewhat robust in flavour.  The Basil on both pizzas tasted like it was picked that day.

Full House on a Saturday Night
While the restaurant was busy, the turnover time was rather fast thanks to the heat of their wood fired oven and well-trained staff. The proprietor, Bill Hutchison, was circulating and greeting everyone, in and around keeping the restaurant clean and helping in the kitchen.  This activity by the owner or manager is very important to me--it shows a commitment to good service and that they are fully invested in the business's success.  As an Economics Professor and a big proponent of patronizing local businesses as much as possible, this is something that matters A LOT. They also have a BYOB policy and a corking station for those of you that want to bring your favourite wine. Given how thick the crowd was at 5:45 PM on Saturday Evening, I have a feeling that Pizaro's will be expanding before too long.  Oh, and just so you know, they are CLOSED ON SUNDAYS.

The Foodie Professor's Report Card for Pizaro's Pizza:

Pizza Marghareta: A
Pizza Compana: A+
              Speed:  A
              Friendliness: A+
Atmosphere: A- (It's in a strip mall, but very homey as you can see)
Cleanliness: A

Overall Grade:  Solid A

Pizaro's Pizza is located at:
14028 Memorial Drive (NW Corner of Kirkwood & Memorial)
Houston, TX 77079
Phone: 281.589.7277

And Remember:
Eat Happy!!!
Zao an, Y'all!!!

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