I'm an equal opportunity pizza-eater. I love the crazy toppings at Pi Pizza Truck—the macaroni and cheese, the chili-topped Fritos—as much as I love the deliberately unadorned slices at Pizaro's Pizza, where the allure of the thin-crust pizzas that emerge from Bill Hutchison's 900-degree oven lies in the spare ingredients that are transformed into an airy, delicate work of art in only 90 seconds.

Romano's
1528 West Gray
713-526-1182
romanoshouston.com

To me, putting your foot down and saying that only one style of pizza is superior is the equivalent of saying that hoagies are the only appropriate sandwiches. Tortas? Panini? Choripan? The turkey and cheese your mom used to pack for your lunches? All unacceptable. Where's the logic in that?

I say pizzas are like sandwiches—many styles, many different ways to appreciate the basic pleasures of a few necessary ingredients. Only the saddest snob would turn their nose up at a simple grilled cheese; ditto the pitiful person who'd turn down mozzarella melting into tomato sauce on pizza dough. And just as you sometimes crave that simple, sturdy grilled cheese—maybe with a bowl of tomato soup, depending on how many Campbell's commercials you watched as a kid—sometimes only a simple slice of cheese will do.

When the nostalgic craving for a good, old-fashioned slice of cheese pizza hits, I trot off to Romano's on West Gray. It's not just the pizza that's evocative of decades past here; it's the decor, too, reminiscent of parties enjoyed as a child at pizza parlors like Mr. Gatti's or the tiny cafes inside roller rinks, back when your success as an elementary school student was measured by how many of these pizza parties you were invited to over the course of a year and you had few other cares in the world, save having the coolest Trapper Keeper and the largest Hypercolor wardrobe.

The prices, too, are throwbacks: get a couple of slices of cheese pizza and a Coke with unlimited refills at lunch for $7. Or a stromboli and a Coke for the same price. Either way, you'll be indulging in the simple pleasures of cheese, tomato sauce, and dough with no fuss, no stress of discerning between fancy toppings ("Robiola or taleggio? ROBIOLA OR TALEGGIO?"), and no pretense. It's just your average neighborhood pizza parlor, serving the same great slices of cheese pizza they've been serving for the last 15 years.

There's an attractive honesty in those simple slices of pizza, never overpromising and never underdelivering, but always providing you exactly what you need in the midst of a stressful day or as a reward at the end of a long week: cheese, tomato sauce, dough. Maybe a few red pepper flakes or some fine wisps of salty Parmesan. Either way, you're getting a good pizza.

 

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