You may say I know a thing or two about pizza. My parents bought a pizza shop when I was 8 months old. I started officially working when I was 11, until I went off to college.
In my college years, I often gave into eating bad pizza for a variety of reasons: far from home, nothing else around and, quite simply, too lazy to care. I’ve grown older and wiser, and it has become my personal mission to try every pizza joint in Austin. So here’s my list of what I believe to be the best pizza places in Austin…so far.
East Side Pies
East Side Pies has three locations in Austin, but their original location at 1401 Rosewood Ave. was my first pizza encounter in Austin, five years ago.
This hipsters’ heaven doesn’t need a fancy wood fire oven to offer their customers exceptional pizza. Their crust is simple – thin with a slight crunch – and their ingredients come from locally-sourced farms and ranches in central Texas. You can find swiss chard, artichokes and lettuce growing in their raised garden beds out front. You can’t get fresher than that. They even offer gluten-free crust options! Now that’s true Austin spirit.
What I also love about East Side Pies is they offer take-out, delivery and pizza by the slice options. Because sometimes you just need a quick bite as you bike around the east side.
Bufalina is one of the newest kids in town. Located at 1519 E Cesar Chavez Street, this pizza brings true Italian flavor to the east side. It’s a small restaurant with a magnificent wood-burning oven center stage. The oven was imported from Naples, the birthplace of pizza, so when I went for the first time I had pretty high expectations. Did I forget to mention my parents are from Italy? I’m happy to say my expectations were met.
The dough is soft, but not too chewy, and the ingredients are simple. I went with some friends and we devoured three pizzas: the pizza fresca, the pizza calabrese and the pizza with anchovies (no longer on the menu). Bufalina is by far the closest to authentic Italian pizza you are going to get in Austin. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of eating pizza in Italy, just trust me.
Editor’s Note: As of July 2018, Pieous’ original location has closed. The business is moving to Belterra Village at West Highway 290 and Nutty Brown Road, and is scheduled to open by mid-July. The restaurant will be renamed Pieous Mecca.
The first time I went to Pieous was a Monday…and it was closed. But I couldn’t be upset because, growing up, we also closed our family restaurant on Mondays. Needless to say, I instantly felt nostalgic and couldn’t wait to try it.
Located in southwest Austin at 12005 U.S. 290 West, on your way to Jester King and wine country, Pieous is worth the drive.
The truth is in the pudding or, in this case, the crust. There is a notable difference in their crust, which comes from a 20-year starter. If the base isn’t perfect, it’s hard to have a perfect pizza. And perfection is exactly what the pizza at Pieous tastes like.
If you want to know more about the history and evolution of this noteworthy pizza shop, catch Cris Mueller’s review here on the Austinot.
The Backspace is one of several restaurants owned by Shawn Cirkiel (his others include Parkside, Olive & June and Chavez). Located at 507 San Jacinto Blvd., The Backspace is literally the backspace behind its sister restaurant, Parkside.
I hate to say it, but as soon as I sat down I was a little disappointed. Not because of the food or ambiance, but because of the incorrect Italian on the menu. Did I mention I speak Italian? Despite the linguistic faux pas, their pizza is above par.
So here’s a quick lesson on wood-burning ovens. The temperature inside these ovens is key. You want the temperature to be between 400-700 degrees, which allows the pizza to bake in a matter of minutes. It’s truly an art form. And the guys at The Baskspace make it look easy. I’m pretty sure I surprised my waitress when I ate the entire pizza by myself.
Now let’s be honest. No matter our age, we sometimes crave the pizza of our childhood. The Pizza Hut’s and Papa John’s from yesteryear delivered to our doorstep. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with these places, other than the fact that they just aren’t that good…or fresh…or local. But if you’re looking for something to take you back, look no further. Milano, located at 1025 W. Stassney, is your neighborhood pizza joint, stepped up a notch.
The crust is just the right thickness, not too thin, not too thick and just the right amount chewy. They don’t offer anything fancy, but the toppings are fresh. My favorite Milano’s item? The calzones. I have yet to discover another place in Austin that can compete with Milano’s calzones. And best of all, they deliver. So you can simply relax in your PJs, pop in a movie and indulge in good, simple, and local pizza.
As the pizza options in Austin continue to grow, so does the quality. And who knows, maybe pizza will be the next big thing since breakfast tacos. Until then, I can’t wait to see who comes into the picture next.
Which pizza joints would you add to the list?