For example, I've never been to Detroit but I'd be impressed if there's any place in Michigan making a Detroit pie better than the version coming out of Via 313 in Austin.
The suburbs of Austin pose more of a challenge. I spent a week in beautiful Lakeway, 30 minutes from Austin, and found little there besides dull chains, burgers, and Americanized "Mexican" food. Round Rock is a more mature neighboring suburb, and we were visiting family there on Super Bowl Sunday.
|The "Spicy Sicilian Sausage" pizza|
We decided to have pizza with the Super Bowl. That would be a challenge in Philly or New York; every pizza place would be bustling with take-out orders. We found no such difficulty in Texas - perhaps everyone there is ordering takeout BBQ?
|Pepperoni, with half mushrooms|
We chose Brooklyn Pie, a Texas mini-chain with a location at 2711 La Frontera Blvd in Round Rock, because their website indicated that they were attempting to create a New York style pizza. About 10 minutes before halftime (of a very boring game), I ordered two large pizzas - one with "spicy Sicilian" sausage, one with pepperoni and mushrooms - for takeout.
On arrival, I found a very quiet shop - one family dining outside al fresco on a lovely Texas February evening, and no one inside at the very few tables. The friendly counter guy had my pies ready, and the tab came to about $37 including the Texas 8.25% tax.
|A slice of the sausage pie|
It was a short drive back to our Super Bowl gathering, and we quickly dug into these pies while still hot and fresh. Each pie was a very large 18" in diameter, making for some huge slices.
|Some nice color underneath|
No question, this was authentic NY style. Many will argue about what that means, but to me it is a large pie (16" minimum) with a thin crust that is a little crispy and a lot pliable. (New Yorkers have a dumb habit of folding pizza slices to turn the magic of pizza into a sandwich, thereby destroying the aesthetics of pie consumption.)
Anyway, this crust was spot on in that aspect. Happily, no one in our party was a folder. The best NY pizza crusts also sport enough flavor that you'd eat them without any toppings; this one was tasty but fell a little short of that mark. As a bonus, it sported a huge fluffy cornicione.
Another key characteristic of a New York slice is that the cheese and sauce are applied in the right proportions that they meld into an orange goo that clings to the crust. I love a bright red sauce, but the key color of a New York slice is orange. Here again, spot on. Neither the sauce nor the cheese was a standout - they were role players here but very nicely integrated into the gestalt of this pie.
Whether Philly, Trenton, New Haven, New York, or Chicago, there is but one correct way to top a pizza with sausage, and plenty of wrong ways. The only proper method is to squeeze out chunks of raw sausage from a fresh rope of Italian sausage so that it cooks on the pie, browning there and leaching flavor into the rest of the pizza.
The worst way is sausage pellets, the Sysco rabbit poop that some mom and pop shops use; next worst is sausage crumbles, precooked stuff that lacks character. Also less than ideal is real sausage, pre-cooked, then sliced onto the pie where it then gets a second cooking.
That's what we had here. It was better than most pre-cooked sausage, and it was quite spicy. If the topping had been called "DC half-smokes" (the spicy hot dog sausage sold at food carts around the nation's capitol) instead of "spicy Sicilian sausage" I would have found that the topping matched the description. It was a hit with my Texas crowd.
The pepperoni was standard grade. The freshly sliced mushrooms were so beloved by my dining partners that I didn't get a slice with mushrooms on it!
Overall, there was not a single standout component here, but the parts were well balanced and perfectly integrated. I read some online comments from transplanted Easterners grateful to get this kind of pizza in Texas, and I fully get that.
Would I go to Round Rock just to get this pie? Perhaps not, but if I'm in Round Rock and I want pizza, I don't think I could do better. Authentic NYC pizza, deep in the heart of Texas.