Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review: Pieous, Austin TX

We were visiting family and friends in Austin, and had seen some buzz about a new Neapolitan pizza place that had recently opened in the former home of a BBQ joint. I try to get to the one of the best or hottest pizza places in towns I visit, and Pieous bubbled to the top of our list.
YaYa approves.

Pieous, judging by online reports, is known for its Neapolitan pie, its cured meats (both on the pizza and on the side), and its dessert (non-pizza) pies. We arrived with a big group -- seven adults and three kids. 





The interior is open, wide, casual, and full of expertly drawn chalkboard info and art all around. There are a handful of tables and long benches (which look to be remnants of the BBQ eatery). There are also some outdoor tables.

There is a counter where you place your order, and the pies and appetizers are brought to you. Drinks (except alcohol) are self-service. That system needs tuning; as the night wore on, there was a long line of folks trying to order, even though the tables were not full.  I'm pretty confident that the friendly staff will figure it out.
The oven

Long line to place your order

We began with some appetizers and wine. A mixed appetizer held one lovely slice of crisply toasted Italian bread and a handful of good if unspectacular spreads for it, as well as some artichoke hearts. Much more compelling was the pastrami plate, which can be ordered "lean" or "juicy."  We chose juicy, and it was scrumptious. Tender, juicy as promised, with the right salty/savory elements. Not the appetizer you'd expect, but for sure one you would order again.

The appetizers were in the $7-$9 range - the house wine was pretty expensive at $18.00 per half carafe.
The Margherita

We chose a bunch of the smallish Neapolitan pizzas; one Margherita for a baseline, one with Brussels sprouts and jam, one with pepperoni,, and one "Fat Queen" that had  two meats -- sausage and soppressata? 
The Fat Queen

Fresh from the oven, you can tell right away that the crust is authentically Neapolitan. Pale dough, puffed up, blistered and charred in all the best ways. The toppings on these pies were mostly superb. The meats on the "Fat Queen" were so good that we ordered a second pie, and the pepperoni pizza offered up little pools of orange grease in the pepperoni cups.


Brilliant char, top and bottom

Once again, I regretted my choice of a veggie-topped pie. The quartered Brussels sprouts were tough, undercooked, and had not acquired any meaningful char or caramelization.

Every pie had a magnificent cornicione, but each suffered from topping overload. The tastiest pie -- the Fat Italian -- had about 3 times as much toppings as might be needed for proper balance. Hence, this pie and every pie was wet, soggy, and floppy in the center. And, I Do Not Accept the notion that Neapolitan pizza is "supposed" to be wet in the center. "Pizza" and "wet" never go together.

The pepperoni pizza

I think what happens here (and everywhere) is a collision of a proper love of good ingredients and even some respect for the "old ways" with the American compulsion to over-do. If a little is good, then a lot must be great. But I've learned at the best American pizza joints, and learned again in Italy, that balance is how you turn great ingredients into great pizza.


Despite these flaws, Pieous is a smashing success. The owners truly care about quality AND service, the ingredients are flawless, the sides are fun (and we never even got to the decadent desserts), and the passion is obvious. I don't hesistate to recommend Pieous to anyone in or around Austin looking for some authentically rendered pie.

The crust gets a 9, the cheese and sauce an 8, the meats a 10, the assembly and execution gets a 4. Delfina in San Francisco (reviewed HERE) and La Porta in Media PA (reviewed HERE) have figured out how to make a Neapolitan-inspired pie that can be eaten with one hand. Balanced, crisp, not soggy.  Once Pieous figures out the flaws in the ordering system and the imbalance in the pies, it has all the right stuff to join the upper crust of American-Neapolitan pizza joints.  Bravo!

I came to Texas and didn't eat any of the wonderful Tex-Mex or BBQ. Thanks to Pieous (and Russo's in Houston), I have no regrets!

Pieous on Urbanspoon

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