Pizza may be the perfect pandemic food. Hot from the oven, it's certainly among the safer choices in takeout dining. Moreover, serious pizza eaters always reheat at home if they have to choose takeout over dining in. During covid19, pizza is the only food I've eaten that wasn't prepared in my home.
When I order a takeout pie, I asked for it unsliced. After 5-10 minutes on a middle oven rack, it's ready for consumption, with crispness renewed. I've relied on some local favorites, mostly Casa Nostra in Spicewood and 'Zza in Bee Cave, but for the first time since February, I targeted a new place.
|Fetch Food Park, Hamilton Pool Road|
Hamilton Pool Road is the only path connecting two of Austin's western suburbs, Bee Cave and Dripping Springs. It's mostly rural, running through plenty of ranches, and it's the route to Hamilton Pool Preserve, an iconic natural swimming pool in a canyon below a 50-ft waterfall, surrounded by a grotto.
Along this scenic road you'll find the eccentric Fetch Food Park, home to a dog park and different trailers including The Original Dog Treat Truck Company, Big Mex BBQ, Leyla's Kitchen (Lebanese food), and Leyla's Pizza. Fetch Food Park is pet friendly and committed to donating a portion of sales to nonprofits making spay/neuter and vet care more affordable and accessible.
The name "Leyla" is tagged to a number of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurants in the Austin suburbs, including a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Cedar Park. I'm intrigued to try the Lebanese fare at Leyla's Kitchen, but we came for the pizza, of course.
|The white pie|
Leyla touts "New York style" pizza, and even features the image of an east coast map spanning Philly-to-New York all over the side of its bright red trailer. Curiously, the map includes my pre-Texas home of West Chester, PA! Good omens. Leyla's also features salads, calzones, and an assortment of "Italian style" sandwiches.
|Meat lover's pizza|
I called ahead and ordered two large pizzas. One was a white pie with ricotta cheese, spinach, garlic, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano cheese ($21 for a huge 18" pie); the other was the "Meat Lover's" pizza featuring house-made pizza sauce, mozzarella, sausage, pepperoni, and bacon ($22). After a 15 minute drive home, they got an 8-minute reheat at 350. The pies were so big that they barely fit onto the oven rack.
Even cut into 16 slices, each slice was substantial on these big pies. Visually, they both sported the look of a New York style pizza, with a broad golden cornicione. Texturally, too, it had that "slightly crisp but mostly foldable" character of east coast pie.
|Underside reveals the screen markings|
Ultimately, the success of any pizza is built on the crust. The crust here was medium thick and pliable, but sturdy enough to support the toppings. The flavor was OK for a supporting player role, but it was not so good that you'd eat it unadorned. For my taste, I'd prefer more salt, oil, and moisture.
Like another nearby east coast style pizzeria, Jersey Giant in Bee Cave, this huge pie was cooked on a screen, with the tell-tale marking on the underside of the crust. Was this New York style? It's really more like Jersey Strip Mall style, and I say that with love and respect. I appreciate that approach to pizza, so ubiquitous in the east, even more now that I'm in Texas. There's no shortage of great pizza in the Austin region, but this stuff is a taste of home.
The white pie was a nice exercise in restraint. The toppings were well balanced and applied in the right proportions. The ricotta, not always a winner on pizza due to its high moisture content, hit the right notes here. The red "meat lovers" pizza was more typical of an east coast pie, featuring a vibrant red sauce melded into the generous amount of mozzarella, with plenty of salty umami coming from the three meats.
I never thought I'd find great pizza in the Austin suburbs, but there's plenty. We have St. Louis style at 'Zza, Detroit style at Via 313, New York style at Toss, and tons of great Neapolitan pie at places like Casa Nostra, Sorellina, and Pieous.
More surprising is finding Jersey Strip Mall pizza, but with Leyla's and Jersey Giant, there's two out here in Hill Country. Even when I was in the east, strip mall style was not my first choice, but it's a solid option. When we finally get covid behind us, we'll bring the pooch and dine right there in Fetch Food Park.