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Crisp


Two sets of friends had recommended Crisp, a place we’d kind of heard about but not yet tried.  Seems like it’s particularly popular for those who live in Shady Acres (just north of the Heights), kind of a neighborhood joint that tries, but somewhat misses, to turn out more than bar food.  Definitely a dining establishment, reservations are required.  And, of course, there’s valet parking if you can’t find something on the street.

We aren’t typically too critical of limited wines by the glass but, for a place that touts its wine selection, the offerings are unimpressive.  We wished we’d understood the enomatic, vending machine style, higher quality wine offerings (1 oz, 3 oz, and 5 oz pours) when we’d started our meal as we weren’t inclined to purchase the required “tasting card” (available in varying monetary denominations; we’re told most people start with $20) when one of us just wanted one more glass of wine.  There’s a large beer menu.  No hard alcohol.

We started with the mussels, generously served in a wine-based broth (no cream) that needed some additional flavor, perhaps more of the billed parsley pesto or anchovy butter.  The cheeseburger was the best thing we tried, although the requested medium rare came out as close to medium well.  (After mentioning this to our waitress — we didn’t send it back — the manager came over and apologized, taking 1/2 off the price.)  The side of truffle fries, touted by the waitress, were neither hot or crispy.  The seared scallops were generously served and perfectly cooked (slightly underseasoned), but sat on a bed of short rib risotto that, like the mussels, needed an additional spark of flavor.  Maybe some salt, some herb.

If we lived in the neighborhood, we’d definitely be back as perhaps we didn’t order the right things.  We’d try the enomatic wine service, the pizza, and the huge meatballs and spaghetti ordered by everyone at the table sitting next to us.  Not living nearby, however, means it may be a while before we get back.


2220 Bevis
713/360-0222
http://www.crisphouston.com/

Pizzeria Solario


On Wesleyan, right next to Costco, adjacent to a large apartment complex, sits Pizzeria Solario, formerly a coffee shop, now turned casual artisanal wood oven pizza spot.  There’s limited indoor and outdoor seating, with the outside patio quite pleasant when the weather cooperates.  The wine selection, both by the glass and bottle, although limited, is reasonably priced.  Beer is also served.  When busy, parking can be limited, unless you walk from Costco.

Of the various appetizer and salad offerrings, our favorites are the olives al forno (marinated and baked in the oven) and the polpette (meatballs).  We weren’t as impressed with the roasted peppers.  We also enjoyed the tricolore and anchovy salad.

We’ve tried a number of the pizzas, with our favorites being the Carne (you got it, lots of meat) and the Fennel Sausage.  The one of us who likes spinach is fond of the Spinaci (goat cheese, spinach, pine nuts).  We weren’t as excited by the Tartufo (fontina, white truffle oil, truffle puree).  New to the menu are some pasta offerrings that we haven’t tried yet.

Give this place a shot.  We think the pizzas are right up there with Dolce Vita and the like.

3333 Wesleyan
713/892-8100
http://pizzeriasolario.com/

Pizaro’s Pizza Napoletana


Not exactly an out of town destination, it did take us a while to get outside the Beltway on Memorial to this much lauded pizza place.  Open for a year or so now, this very casual, BYOB, made such a hit out right out of the box that it was up for best new restaurant in My Table’s 2012 culinary awards.  And, while it didn’t win, it’s been so successful that the owner is looking for locations inside the Loop.

Pizza making is practically a competitive sport nowadays, with so many new places opening or old ones putting in pizza ovens.  While a wood burning oven seems to be a requirement, beyond that each place has its special preferences (frequently researched in the motherland, giving the owners an guilt-free opportunity to eat their way through Italy) for flour, tomatoes, cheese and, even, water.  We don’t profess to understand the nuances in flour types, but we do know what tastes good (at least to us).  And Pizzaro’s is pretty darn tasty.

Turned out in 90 seconds from the wood burning oven that heats up to 900 degrees, these pizzas are thin, slightly crispy and lightly topped.  Pizzaro’s does not do delivery, and they recommend against take-out.  The pizza is best eaten immediately out of the oven.

Four of us concluded that four bottles of wine (the value of BYOB cannot be overstated) paired quite nicely with four different pizzas.  (Salads are offered and likely are quite fine, but we’d made the trek for the good stuff.)  The favorite of two of us was the Fino (olive oil, cured fennel sausage, goat cheese, garlic and mozzarella).  But we also very much enjoyed the Polpette (tomato sauce, meat balls, ricotta and mozzarella); Campania (tomato sauce, roasted crimini mushrooms, artichokes, proscuitto, black olives and mozzarella); and Calabrese (tomato sauce, spicy sopressata, pepperoni, mozzarella and basil).  The crust on the pizza is thin and delicate,  a great taste,  with just a slight softness in the middle and crisp around the outside, perfect for edge-eating and not just leaving on the plate as an afterthought.  All ingredients were quite fresh and the toppings were well balanced on the pizza, not over-weighting the pizza but also not skimpy.

On the Friday evening we visited, the place was pretty busy, but the owner told us it was a quiet night.  So, do as we did, get there early, open your wine, and eat a bunch of pizza.  You’ll be glad you did.

14028 Memorial Drive
281/589-7277
http://www.pizarospizza.com/