People looking for the best pizza in the world flock to two places: New York and Italy. Debbie, the daughter of Austin Pizza Garden's owner, and an award-winning pizzaiola, was no exception. To hone her culinary craft she visited both locales on a transatlantic quest for the perfect pizza recipe. Once she felt she'd mastered one?preferring the thin-crust variety for its unmistakable texture?she flew home to Indianapolis, where she founded Bazbeaux. In no time, the pizzeria took off, earning it a top spot in Indy's pizza scene, an honor that still endures nearly three decades later. To spread her success, Debbie taught her recipe to her family in Austin, who set up a pizzeria of their own in one of the city's century-old historical buildings.
Today, the chefs at Austin Pizza Garden still lovingly make pies using Debbie's carefully crafted recipes, and spice up the original flavor with their own distinctive spin. They throw jalapeno slices into the mix of the texas fajita pie, for example, which is crowned in fajita chicken and avocado and served with a side of sour cream. They've even expanded beyond the traditional pizza sauce, swapping out classic marinara for walnut pesto or black-bean dip. Whether baking up familiar flavors or unique creations, Austin Pizza Garden blows a longhorn of plenty that gathers Austinites near and far.
It's the 1980s. Marc Hill is a personal trainer in NYC, and alas, his favorite restaurant is closed for lunch. So he does what few hungry men would dare in this situation. He knocks on the glass, tells the chef he'll open the store himself?and strangely, the chef obliges. Marc is no stranger to hard work, of course; he helped out at his grandfather's store from the age of 8, and he was running it by 16. So under the tutelage of the general manager, Armando, Marc can finally channel his ethic into something lasting, something to honor his Sicilian mother: the art of pizza making.
More than 20 years later, Marc Hill still celebrates Armando, and his mother, Rosalie Roppolo, by crafting Italian pies at Roppolo's Pizza. With a swing of the kitchen door, tables populate with 22-inch pizzas that weigh more than six pounds each and strike fear in the hearts of even the bravest pizza cutters. On the Mediterranean patio and deck, paninis and calzones descend in the glow of a 73-inch television as colorful parasols look on in admiration.
Although they both hail from the Mediterranean, pizza and falafel don't often appear on the same menu. Diners at Rome's Pizza, however, might be prompted to wonder why—it turns out it's quite possible for one kitchen to carry both dishes off nicely. In a 2004 review, the Current's Alejandro Pérez praised the pesto pizza's "light, crispy crust and full-bodied flavor" and the falafel sandwich's "hot, crisp patties."
This juxtaposition isn't the only surprise on the extensive menu. Sure, you can get red sauce and pepperoni atop your pie, but Rome's specializes in white pizzas slicked with olive oil, herbs, and smoked garlic. Strombolis and calzones fold in on themselves to make for a hearty meal or a high-powered alternative to a water balloon, and sandwiches and pasta display the same love of big portions and off-the-beaten-path ingredients. On the Mediterranean side of the menu, there are also staples such as dolmas, hummus, and gyros.
The brother-sister team behind Rudino's Pizza and Grinders opened the eatery's first location in 1995 in Cary, North Carolina. They wanted to create a restaurant that incorporated an onsite bakery into its design, keeping the kitchen full of fresh, housemade dough for pizzas and sandwiches. It was a concept that proved successful, and now Rudino's has locations all across the country.
In these kitchens, cooks coat crusts with a sauce based on the duo's family recipe, and then layer on any number of ingredients?including fresh basil, jalape?os, and bacon. They also slide open-faced grinders into ovens after loading them with such sandwich fixings as italian sausage, salami, and fresh vegetables, which are never frozen, canned, or taken from a neighbor's crisper.
Keith Dartez and Shannon Landry got the entrepreneurial itch after logging 50 combined years of experience in the pizza industry. After they decided to go into business for themselves, they soon decided they didn?t want to create a run of the mill pizza joint. They exercised their creativity, incorporating tried-and-true Cajun recipes into traditional pizzeria dishes. The fusion of flavors manifests in Cajun Pizza Place, where the duo top thin-crust pizza with Cajun staples such as shrimp, barbecue chicken, and spicy jalapenos, sided with Cajun favorites such as muffulettas and fried shrimp po-boys. The spicy kick of the hot-smoked sausages and gumbo can be cooled with seven varieties of draft beer or a hug from an icy polar bear.
The chefs at Hill Country Pasta House have no quarrel with traditional Italian food—they whip up as mean a chicken rigatoni as anybody. But mastering classic Italian cooking is a mere stepping stone toward the restaurant's standout fusions of Italian and southwestern flavors. Besides tossing grilled chicken with jalapeño fettuccine and tequila cream sauce, the culinary team lends an extra kick to shrimp diablo by stuffing each bacon-wrapped crustacean with serrano peppers.
A serrano salsa likewise spices up the aptly named serrano pizza, but Hill Country's wood-fired pizzas can also host more common toppings, such as wine mushrooms. In addition to grain-heavy eats, gluten-free options are also available.