Friday nights in the Malcolm house meant ordering a large cheese pie from Tony’s Pizzeria, which was a 20-second walk from our front stoop. To honor pizza in all its glory, welcome to Pizza Friday! here at Gastronaut. We’ll celebrate a different Houston pizzeria each week, rating its basic cheese slice on the pizzaaaaa! scale (the more As the better).
This week: Pizza Motus.
This is the new kid on the block, opening just last week (and starting with Friday night service, naturally). Will Gruy, who spent his childhood in both Texas and Italy (including a motorcycle-racing career over there), opened this West University spot to celebrate Roman-style pizza. The restaurant is inspired by the style, which emphasizes a bubbly, light dough.
To get it that way, Gruy first buys flour from Italy; the company he uses gets ingredients from America, then produces a flour that works specifically for the Roman style. After making the dough, the Motus team ferments it in the walk-in freezer over a period that lasts between two and three days. When finished, the dough is flash baked—either with or without tomato sauce—for two minutes in an oven that Gruy sourced from Italy. That gives the crust additional texture while gently cooking the sauce (for red pies) into the bread.
Finally, when you order your pizza—by the slice, in a personal size, or on a tray made for groups to share—it’s topped and baked another four minutes or so. Motus' oven has three cooking bays, each with individual temperature settings, so the team can adjust each pie to specification (and tweak whenever necessary).
That’s a lot of process talk, but pizza is all about the process.
“I don’t know of another way to do this product without coming up with shortcuts,” said Gruy, who wanted to capture the airiness of a dish he regularly devoured during a good portion of his youth.
The menu includes basic varieties of pizza—margherita, cheese, pepperoni—along with a stacked Veggie Box with olives, crispy kale, cherry tomatoes, onion, and artichokes. (Another benefit of Roman-style is the bread is deep and textured enough to withstand a piling of toppings.) Motus also has white pies, plus paninis, salads, and a few appetizers like rosemary potato chips and zucchini fries. For groups, the artichoke dip is a must, creamy and topped with parmesan that slowly melts into the blend. It’s served with breadsticks that balance crunch and chew.
The West University location has two-tops, booth-style seating, and picnic tables for groups, plus tables out front. Instead of getting a number that corresponds with an order, patrons will receive cute name plates depicting West U streets and modeled after Houston’s blue-tile curb signs. Plus, all the wall art is about motion (motus is Latin for motion).
It’s Gruy’s first time running his own place as a sole owner, and he joked that he’s staking his claim that Roman-style pizza can work in Houston. I don’t see why not, especially when there’s this much attention to detail and passion for product.
Slice rating: pizzaaaaa!
You can hold a slice in your hand as you munch away. The cheese-to-tomato balance is pretty spot on, though I would’ve liked just a little more cheese. That said, they take back seat to the dough, which is bubbly, crispy, and light. A really good slice of pizza.