Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: Luigi's Pizzeria, Houston TX

Did Willie Nelson or LBJ come to New York and check out the BBQ joints? Probably not, but nonetheless on our Texas visit to the land of slow-cooked and marinated meat, we consulted some "best pizza in Houston" lists to find a pizza target. We were happy to get a recommendation from a local that matched one of the pies on a pretty good lineup from Thrillist.
Click on any image for full size version
Luigi's Pizzeria has long been a local cult favorite, but its popularity has soared by the addition of the Axelrad Beer Garden, which shares a large open yard. On a pleasantly warm night in late May, Axelrad was jammed with after-work hipsters enjoying the beer garden, and Luigi's was doing a brisk business of selling pies to be consumed at the outdoor picnic tables. 

Luigi's picnic tables; Axelrad Beer Garden in the back
 Luigi's can't sell you a beer, but will permit you to walk over to Axelrad to get one. The draft beer list is so long that it's nearly overwhelming; I paid $7.50 for a pint of pecan porter in a plastic cup.
Where the magic happens
For our group of 5 diners, we opted for 3 medium 12" pies: one Margherita, one white pie with mushrooms, and one conventional pie topped with pepperoni. When the pies arrived after a short wait, they came with paper plates and small packets of Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.
Pepperoni pizza

The Margherita

White pizza with mushrooms
As always, the crust is the foundation for a successful pizza. Here, each pie sported a golden brown and puffy cornicione with some attractive bubbles. Underneath there was also the good color of a well-cooked but not scorched pie. 
Margherita slice
The crust had its own fresh flavor with a texture that was crisp yet foldable. Overall, very good crust that had just a remote hint of its white bread cousins; it might be improved with a bit more salt and olive oil in the mix.

Pepperoni slice
Our local expert noted that her favorite feature here is the cheese because it has the old-school mozzarella stretchiness. And indeed each pie came with a generous portion of mild but tasty and indeed stretchy cheese.

The thick sauce was dark red and a little sweet as a role player in the pizza's overall flavor. I later learned that Luigi's uses Allegro pizza sauce, a Heinz product made with tomato puree, salt, sugar, EVOO, spices, and garlic powder.

The pepperoni was the standard thin-sliced product, applied generously. All the ingredients on the pepperoni pie were in pretty good harmony - balanced in flavors and in proportion. The total effect here was a pretty good Texas version of a classic New York slice.

The white pie was made with Alfredo sauce and a healthy application of sauteed mushrooms. Here too the ingredients were well-matched for a successful pizza. Flavors were a bit tame overall, but the mushrooms added a nice umami kick.
Good color and crispness underneath; no soggy spots

The Margherita was the least successful because it was topped with chopped bland pink tomatoes. It's ironic that fresh tomatoes make a lousy pizza topping, but they add weight and moisture while diluting the flavor. Further, these diced bland chunks clashed with the dark red sweet sauce.
The rest of the pie was fine, and the fresh basil is always a nice touch. It could go from an OK pizza to a very good one by eliminating the pizza sauce and the fresh tomatoes and substituting some vibrant canned crushed tomato and fresh garlic.
Axelrad in foreground, Luigi's behind it
Luigi's Pizzeria offers a great atmosphere - especially on a warm and pleasant evening - and a nice lineup of New York style pizza. You won't think that you're in Brooklyn, but drinking craft beer under the Texas stars, why would you want to be anywhere else?

Luigi's Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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