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: Star Pizza (Washington Ave).
I scrolled on my phone nervously. They said to be patient because the preparation takes a little longer, so of course I grew anxious. I kept turning my head around to watch the people pass. I drummed my fingers at the table, took a sip of Mexican Coke, and finally Portia appeared.
“Here it is!” she broadcasted, like a ringmaster teasing the kids to come closer to the lion's mouth.
It rested on the table, my arch nemesis: deep-dish pizza.
At some point I had to try it, and so I chose Star Pizza—the Houston staple established by Chicagoans in 1976—to introduce to me what Houston considers Windy City-style pie. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve tried deep-dish, and even then it was probably at the Pizzeria Uno in Boston’s Kenmore Square, so who the heck knows what I was eating. But even with this small sample size, I could unequivocally say that Chicago-style pizza is a casserole, not pizza.
Portia Bruckner, the lady who served me the pie and has worked at Star Pizza since 1980, disagreed with me.
“Yeah, it’s pizza. It’s got red sauce and cheese.”
That is true. It has those things. I always felt the layering of deep-dish (cheese, then toppings, then cheese, then tomato sauce) revealed its fake status, but Star Pizza convinced me that, okay, it is more like pizza than I’m giving it credit. Maybe it even is pizza after all.
The spinach and garlic, feta, and Kalamata olive slice I ordered was terrific, and exactly what I’d want if I’m ordering deep-dish. The crust (not as deep as the worst offenders) was durable and added crunch. I really enjoyed the bitter spinach, and the flavors really worked well together.
I also ordered a cheese slice because that’s what we’re doing every week, and it was much more of a rollercoaster ride. I thought the cheese—a combination of mozzarella and provolone—was rich, creamy, and irresistible, but there was just so much of it. “We don’t skimp on cheese,” said Bruckner. I love cheese, but I like more balance on my plain slice.
Also, the slice was wider than Washington Avenue. A hallmark of a great New York-style slice (and that’s how they advertise it) is its foldability. If I even dared to fold this slice, it would’ve fallen apart in the middle and probably contributed to early-onset arthritis.
Star Pizza may not have my favorite East Coast slice, but that’s okay. It does deep dish pretty well, and considering my experience there, I’ll be back to have more.
Slice rating: pizzaa!
Giving it an extra point for the absurd wealth of delicious cheese. The half-inch crust is too much for a New York-style slice, plus it’s wide and unfoldable. Needs more tomato sauce, too. But the cheese is something else. If you demand creamy mozzarella and provolone, here’s your slice.