allandale pizza tour (2016)

Note: This was a two-part article for The Allandale Neighbor on pizza in the ‘hood I wrote back in 2016.

Back in college I treated pizza as its own food group called breakfastlunchanddinner. I’d buy five pies for five bucks, stack ‘em in the fridge, and be ready for the week. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a wee bit more refined (and less able to internally process that much pizza). Although it’s rare that I find a piece of pizza I don’t like at some level, I’ve become something more of a connoisseur.

Although Allandale has long had access to the national slingers of za (Gatti’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s), I’m focusing this series on the homegrown pies. To keep a level evaluation field, I’m striving to order and compare pepperoni pizzas.

Bufalina Due (5 stars)

The haiku review:

a line out the door
cooked at one thousand degrees
HolyHaagenDaaz!

In one word: holyHaagenDaaz!!! Bufalina Due is, hands down, the peak of artisan pizza in Allandale. A recent entry to the hood, the Due has already made an impact on area eaters. We stood in line for the 5 pm opening one Saturday, and pie-eaters packed the place by 5:09 (reservations are only taken for large groups at 5 pm). That’s impressive. The Due has about 50 seats with another dozen or so at the bar. The imported Italian Neapolitan pizza oven is handmade by the pizza-world-renowned Stefano Ferrara. This simply gorgeous oven is prominently igloo’d in the back of the restaurant. Fired with local post oak, the oven achieves temperatures of 1,000 degrees, cooking thin-crusts in as little as 55 seconds.

The Due serves up pre-specified artisan pies; although you can ask to add or remove some toppings, you can’t Frankenstein your own pizza (thus, we couldn’t order a pepperoni). Similarly, the pizzas come in one size, about 12 inches in diameter. So we went with the traditional Napoletano (tomato, sausage, garlic, chile, basil, black olive; $14): a thin, chewy crust with a medley of vivid flavors. We ordered a couple sides: faro risotto (with crimini and oyster mushrooms, parm brodo, fresh herbs; $8) and potato and arugula salad (with radish top pesto, pecorino; $8). We ended the evening with the large (and thus sharable) pretzel ice cream (with caramel sauce, mustard seed brittle, whipped cream; $7). All-in-all, absolutely well made, well plated, and delicious. In a clever touch, the bill arrives as a bookmark in a pulp novel (ours was Make Way for Murder).

The interior is hip and sparse: the focus is on the oven. There are a couple 8-seat tables with many two-toppers. While we were there, eighties new wave blared perhaps a bit too loud (although I appreciated the three Blondies in 44 minutes). Service is attentive but not intrusive. They serve wine and local microbrews; no mixed drinks. Our one “Huh?” moment was when staff sat us in the farthest back table awkwardly next to the restrooms despite being the second couple to get through the doors: not a great way to reward someone who waited 20 minutes for your place to open. Despite that glitch, we’ll be back.

6555 Burnet Road; (512)215-8662; dine-in and take-out; bufalinapizza.com

Rebel Pizza Bar (4 stars) [closed]

The haiku review:

local art, food, drink
a rebel with a pizza
and a bocci court

Located above Suzi’s China Grill and the Mattress Firm, the first thing you’ll notice when you enter is the graffiti. It’s everywhere! The walls feature the handicraft of 16 local street artists, appropriately setting the rebellious atmosphere of Rebel Pizza Bar. The local preference doesn’t stop with the art; it’s also featured with local ingredients in the food and local wares at the full bar.

You can get what you want at Rebel: they have their own boutique pizzas with goofy names (such as Fowl Play, Goldenpye, Atomic) and an “Own It” section where you choose your toppings. Their pizzas sport thin crusts that are chewy and buttery. Specialty pie-wise, we’ve tried the Fig & Pig (olive oil, fig jam, red onion, goat cheese, arugula, prosciutto, lemon-parmesan; $13 for 10 inches) and the Contender (fresh marinara, spicy sausage, pancetta, pepperoni, prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella; $15 for 10 inches). The pizzas were good, reminiscent of the specialty pies at Second Bar and Grill downtown (although not quite as tasty). On a different trip, we went for a straight-up pepperoni pizza, which featured a sauce with full tomato flavor ($15.5 for 16 inches).

Rebel also makes delicious salads ($6 to $11) with ingredients ranging from watermelon radish to pine nuts to chipotle croutons to white anchovy. For Last Rites, aka dessert, there’s pumpkin donut holes, fudge brownies, Amy’s ice cream, and “naturally enhanced” cotton candy.

The music is on the loud side but multi-generational, ranging from Bowie to bro-country and Cash to Koma. A large rectangular bar holds fort in the center of the space with ample bar seating and table seating all around it. While we were there, the bar televisions flickered a tense match of curling. Rebel also has a nice outdoor patio, part covered, part open, with a bocci court (don’t throw those balls too high!).

7858 Shoal Creek Blvd; (512)457-5757; dine-in or take-out; delivery possible with Favor or PrimeNOW; rebelpizzabar.com

Little Deli (3.5 stars)

The haiku review:

after a short stroll
you can have New York pizza
under an oak tree

Although not technically in our hood, it’s only a moderate appetite-inducing three-block stroll from Burnet into Brentwood to taste the wares of a Zagar-rated pizza joint that often makes Austin’s top ten pizza lists. Little Deli is located in a quaint but tired mid-century modern shopping center. The “Little” part comes from its size: There are 18 seats inside including the four in the stockroom. However, the Deli also has 15 picnic tables outside including many under a gorgeous oak tree. The place is lofi and divey, service is on paper plates with plastic forks, and it’s byob, and there’s nothing wrong with all that (and is part of its charm). Servers are friendly, and there’s a solid neighborhood following with Brenties bringing wine, beer, and their sprogs to enjoy a lazy Austin evening.

And the food? The large salad ($7.95) was tasty with the house ranch-blue cheese-feta dressing. Our large pepperoni pizza (18 inches at $22) came out piping hot and thoroughly shingled with pepperoni. The crust was puffy and crisp, the pizza was cheesy, a bit greasy, but not oversalty. I can’t say I was knocked sockless, but my New York friends assure me this is the real New Jersey pizza deal.

 7101 Woodrow Avenue, (512)647-7402, dine-in or take-out, littledeliandpizza.com

Pinthouse Pizza (4 stars)

The haiku review:

nice picnic tables
topped with piping hot pizza
and cold site-brewed beer

The sign out front says it all: “Pizza and Beer.” That’s two of the three major food groups, y’all! (if only they served mac-n-cheese…) Fortunately, both of those food groups are expertly served at Pinthouse Pizza. Opened by six dudes in 2012, Pinthouse quickly recruited an ample clientele inspired by their site-brewed beers and locally-sourced foods.

Pinthouse correctly describes itself as “We are not gourmet, but we are artisanal. We are not gastropub, but we are craft.” I found this to be true. It’s a nice place, but it’s not precious. And the food, conjured with local ingredients, is solid. While I support locally-sourced and organic foods, it’s not an absolute requirement for me. However, the use of locally-sourced and organic chow means that the proprietors care about their food, and that’s the case at Pinthouse.

The salads are gorgeous and delicious. We tried the Pinthouse Salad ($5 for a side size, which was enough for both of us) with baby spinach, dried cranberries, red onions, blue cheese, candied pecans, and poppy seed dressing. We then tried one of their classic pies, a medium 14-inch Pepperoni and Basil ($13.50). The crust, let’s call it medium thick, is chewy and grainy (in a good way). Pinthouse uses Smart Flour (sorghum, amaranth, and teff) for their gluten-free crusts, so I wonder if they put some of it in all their dough. The highlight of the show was the smoked and curled-at-the-edges crispy pepperoni, sourced from East Austin’s Smokey Denmark’s.

You can order a classic pie, a specialty pie, or simply concoct your own. Pinthouse also has ephemeral Off the Map pies, which was the Ooh La La when we were there: pepperoni pizza topped with habanero, serrano, and jalapeno-infused honey; arugula; peppadew peppers; and micro-planed parmesan. As Yogi Berra said (as quoted on Pinthouse’s web page): “You better cut the pizza in four pieces, because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”

Pinthouse also hops with award-winning hops. They have about 18 brews brewed on site plus another 30 guest beers. Pinthouse sports a 100% PVC-free draft system and uses their brewing byproducts to feed peacocks. At the website, there’s a live video feed of their brew boards so you can see what’s getting tapped and served. It’s easy to spot the brewers: they all look like malnourished cavemen.

Pinthouse has a contemporary biergarten aesthetic: a large open space framed with stainless steel beer-brewing barrels and a phalanx of 20 glossy-topped picnic tables with seven additional tables out front. It’s a kid-friendly environment (not much to destroy…) with a small collection of video games in the corner. The tunes are varied and, interestingly, somewhat gothy. I like that.

Ordering occurs at separate counters for the bar and kitchen with pizza delivered to your table. Note that you can add pizza to an open bar tab but not beer to a pizza tab. While the pizza and beer are ample, the parking is not. Additional parking is in the rear. After 4:30 pm M-F and 1 pm S-S you can park at the Assistance League Thrift House and stroll over (the website presents additional parking options).

4729 Burnet Road; (512)436-9605; dine in; third party delivery available.

East Side Pies (5 stars)

The haiku review:

started in the east
they are now on the north side
thin crispy goodness

To the directionally literal, the name of this place may seem bizarre. Don’t we live on the north side? But this northern outpost of the highly acclaimed East Side Pies is a #pizzagawdsend. Although its location is not technically in Allandale, it’s close enough for the neighborhood-newsletter business (and it is on the east side of Allandale). Furthermore, Eastsides are mostly about takeout or delivery, and they are easily within piping-hot-pie striking distance.

The pies sport thin crispy crusts with a good balance between cheese, pepperoni, and tomato sauce (we’re not surprised by hearty tomato flavor after bumping into the owner at the downtown farmers market buying up all the tomatoes). Having lived half a decade in Nuevo Mexico, we love that they have green chile (pronounced as if a Canadian was telling you to relax: “Chill, eh.”); therefore, we almost exclusively order a pepperoni and chile pizza from them ($19 for 18”). As a bonus, the chile has a fair amount of burn to it, unusual for Austin. And if the burn of peppers from the Rio Grande Valley upstream of Tejas wasn’t enough, the Eastsiders include a large, grilled jalapeno in the box. We’re not sure what you’re supposed to do with it, so we save it for homemade migas the next morning.

East Side Pies has the basics but also has an extensive list of specialty pies (for example, the Buscemi, the Girther, the Old 97s, the Moon Dingo, the Popeye, and the Chimi Hendrix). They also have the craziest collection of sauces we’ve ever seen for pizza, including black bean, spinach curry, hummus, chimichurri, and tomatillo. The most insane ingredient? Avocado. They also have a gluten-free crust option. And to yin the digestive yang, they also serve decent salads ($3.50 to $4.50).

1809-1 West Anderson Lane; (512)467-8900; takeout and delivery; slices available onsite.

Brooklyn Pie Co. (2 stars)

The haiku review:

go into Woodrow’s
order beer and some pizza
separate billings

Brooklyn Pie Co. operates as a small standalone but, like a moss ball attached to a post oak, it’s also glommed onto a bar, Little Woodrow’s. I guestimate that Woodrow’s supplies 87 percent of Brooklyn’s clientele, which is a good thing for Woodrow’s: I’m not a fan of bars that don’t serve food. It’s also a good thing for Brooklyn Pie Co. because of the built-in clientele for its wares. Woodrow’s takes advantage of its indoor-outdoor Mid-Century Modern location with its dog-friendly policy (pooches allowed inside!), but along with the bar focus comes the smoking and, in this case, the dive-iness.

Perhaps Brooklyn shines through its specialty pies (such as the Classic New York, the Bleeker Street, or the White Castle Cheeseburger), but the pepperoni pizza we ate, sprinkled with oregano ($13.75 for 14”), was dough dominated resulting in a relatively flavorless pie. This lack of flavor is odd since they proclaim the use of all natural ingredients and sitemade Old World tomato sauce. The Fresh Garden Salad ($4.00, enough for two) was adequate but nothing special. “Adequate” is the key word. If you’re at Little Woodrow’s and need something to soak up the hops after a few pints, Brooklyn’s dough rises to the task. But if pie is the sole goal of your quest, there are far-more-noble places for crusading. And be careful about eating beneath the tree out front: the birds fancy themselves as chefs, often adding additional toppings to your pizza!

5425 Burnet Road; (512)291-6583; dine-in, takeout, and delivery.

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