The Russo family moved from Italy to New York in 1964, and from New York to Texas in 1978, carrying with them time-honored culinary techniques imported straight from the old country. Anthony Russo has worked side by side with family members and Italian chefs since the age of 12, learning to prepares salads, pastas, and pizzas from only the freshest of ingredients. Anthony's love for his family's cooking grew into a lucrative business, with Russo's Coal Fired Italian Kitchen restaurants and Russo's New York Pizzerias popping up all over the American South.
Like a cookie decorated with Lady Liberty's Social Security Number, Russo's pizza is an edible souvenir of the Big Apple, introducing palates to the thin, crispy brick-oven pies that helped make New York cuisine world famous. In between bites of basil-, anchovy-, and meatball-crowned pizzas, diners feast on baked ziti, lobster ravioli, and tortellini carbonara, as well as oven-cooked flatbread sandwiches and toasted calzones.
Although some franchised eateries lose sight of tradition, the cooks at each Godfather’s Pizza locale stick to a 30-year-old practice of slathering thick, original-recipe crusts with vine-ripened-tomato sauce and quality cheese. Not all pizzas begin on robust foundations, however. The cooks also prep golden, buttery, pan-style crusts as well as thin and crispy crusts that allow toppings—such as such as green peppers, artichoke hearts, and seasoned chicken—to take the spotlight. Many Godfather's Pizza locations even offer gluten-free crusts, and a few locations serve pizzas in boxes that are weatherproofed so that they can be reused as sleds.
A massive gorilla snarls from the rafters above Putt-Putt Fun House's caf?, powerless to snatch the ice-cream cones and hot dogs from smiling kids' hands. Indeed, kids are control at the family fun center, leading parents through a variety of indoor and outdoor attractions ranging from mini-golf to laser tag. Waterfalls, ponds, and flowerbeds surround two 18-hole mini-golf courses, 22-foot climbing towers recreate the experience of scaling limestone, and bumper cars teach reckless young drivers to safely exchange insurance information. Putt-Putt Fun House also offers an array of additional activities including bumper boats, mini bowling, a 3D motion theater, and laser frenzy.
Since its inception in 1974, Birraporetti's has melded Italian cooking with a traditional Irish-pub atmosphere, serving hand-tossed pizzas baked in their stone oven alongside robust Irish coffee and spirits. CBS Houston highlighted its oven-fired pizzas as some of the best in the city, specifically lauding the house bianco pizza for eschewing traditional ingredients such as tomato sauce and shredded copies of the Mona Lisa. The kitchen remains open until midnight to accommodate late-night cravings, yet the chefs still rise in time to serve Sunday jazz brunches replete with made-to-order waffles, omelets, and desserts served amid live jazz performances.
With parents hailing from Sicily and Naples, Anthony Russo enjoyed an Italian upbringing. By age 12, he spent much of his time in the kitchen, learning to prepare Old World recipes with his family and family friends. And from the flurry of Italian phrases and conversation, one quote of his father's stuck with him most: "If you can't make it fresh, don't serve it!"
Several decades later, Anthony has hand-tossed his own Italian restaurant franchise and, true to his father's words, employs fresh ingredients in the same family recipes that were passed down to him. Amid exposed brick and walls the warm hue of marinara, skilled chefs craft New York–style brick-oven pizzas with toppings such as spinach, sundried tomatoes, and capers. Servers stand ready to answer questions about the restaurant’s wine lists, letting guests know which wines pair best with the Pizzotto sandwich or whether pinot noir can really turn dogs invisible.
Papa Murphy's Take 'n' Bake Pizza was born out of the owner's frustration with bad pizza from chains, which often tasted as if every ingredient was canned or frozen. Deciding to change the industry, Papa Murphy's tosses every ingredient, all of which are never frozen, onto the crust in front of the customer's eyes and sends them home to bake in a home oven. This dedication to fresh flavor earned Papa Murphy's the top spot on Zagat's National Chain survey.
Visitors can create their own take on the pizza pie or chomp into one of their signature pizzas, which range from meat-filled stuffed crust to calorie-conscious lite varieties covered in vegetables. Their appetizers and desserts follow the same pattern. Customers order raw cookie dough or cheesy bread ripe for the baking, resulting in every course being fresh from the oven.