I approached the mustachioed, pig-tailed little lady who sits atop 1415 South Congress Avenue. High above the cozy and fragrant Home Slice, the “Queen of Pies” reigns with authority and a slice of home for many Austinites.
There’s no escaping the wafting, nearly visible garlic and tomato bouquet that emerges from the doors, sills, and kitchen vents of the 9-year-old pizza venue that introduced New York style pizza to Central Texans. Jeff Mettler, Executive General Manager at Home Slice Pizza and More Home Slice, said it all began with a mission to “create an Austin institution based on the original, unfailing goodness that is authentic NY Style pizza.”
And so began what is hands-down one of my favorite dining experiences to date, with a member of pizza royalty. Mind the gap during my venture of craft beer, upside-down pie, and layers of flaky dough, for the raw storytelling proves true to the experience one is intended to have at Home Slice.
Jen Strickland, Owner and Queen of Pies, is the mastermind of ingenuity who brings the secret to the sauce at Home Slice Pizza. She singlehandedly tested and introduced authentic recipes and methods from her home state of New York, to launch the Home Slice concept.
Husband Joseph Strickland, who according to Jeff, “originally branded the concept,” worked alongside with a third business associate, Terri Hannifin, who attended school with Jen at New York University. The trio, now each located locally, put forth their skills and continue to surround the brand with the passion and vision they’ve had since Day One.
Today, this modest pizza joint, along with sidekick More Home Slice, bring in a consistent line of customers to experience the“no compromise” authenticity of Jen’s recipe know-how and quality assurance. With nearly a decade of community success, they now have built a team of hand-picked and dedicated staff members who are just as passionate about the product, brand and everyday outcome of the food as the founders. “It’s about creating an experience, whether dining in, or for take-out” said Jeff.
“The first three years of business, they ordered bread from Jen’s favorite bakery in New York,” Jeff continued. Finally one day, “the baker came to Austin to teach our team how to replicate their recipe,” one which the team at Home Slice has used since. The ideal of “quality over compromise” appears gracefully in each and every facet of the experience they provide.
Craft Beer at Home Slice Pizza
After pleasantries, we quickly leapt into the menu of Italian, Texas and New York craft beers, as well as the distinctively marked Italian wine list. In a neighborhood where Italian flavor is vast, Home Slice has defined their niche by incorporating the flavors of their authentic, yet simplified, cuisine with a well-defined knowledge of beverage service.
Our server Conway did not disappoint, offering pairings during the meal that I sampled before giving an agreeing nod to his keenly aware palate. When our starters began to fill the table, Jeff mentioned that “neighborliness and playful irreverence” are two of the core values that are the foundation of the Home Slice culture. Ironically enough, it plays over into their food also.
And so, the feast ensued…
Food at Home Slice Pizza
The Antipasto: a plate which left no question that this meal was intended for family-style consumption! Filled with brilliant intent, the combination of Italian meats (salami, capicola) and cheeses (Provolone, imported Parmigiano Reggiano) along with an assortment of peppers and olives was paired perfectly with a traditional Govone, Barbera d’asti.
The Pear Gorgonzola Salad: an unexpected tip-toeing option of mixed greens, topped with walnuts, red onion and Dijon vinaigrette.
Pizzas: Ingredients at Home Slice are sliced, shredded, mixed and baked on a daily basis. This lends to the fresh and fragrant aroma that billows through the dining room and beyond, as if it were being piped through the air vents.
Margherita – accessorized with garlic and fresh, well-timed placement of fragrant basil, this pie remained crisp enough to encourage your palate with a pairing of Pala, Monica.
The Sicilian – a Monday special, is a masterpiece of finely crafted layers of crispy square crust pizza that pay homage to the recipes of Sicilian immigrant pizza makers who originally inhabited New York City in the early 20th century. According to Jeff, “the dough of the Sicilian requires a lot of attention.” After a great deal of recipe testing, the handcrafted specialty will be making a more frequent appearance at the restaurant, along with its very own soon to be constructed, walk-in fridge. Fellow Austinot blogger Edgar Barguiarena and I tried two variations of the square-crusted king of pizzas:
- The Upside-down Pie, which strategically positions the cheese under the sauce. In that one swiftly genius move, the ingredients create a perfect flavor explosion.
- The Pepperoni Sicilian won my heart instantly. Melted, oozing, cheesy combination of mozzarella, provolone and Romano topped with crispy-edged pepperoni sitting lightly atop the crisp, golden crust.
Just when I thought I’d had the best of it…along came the Italian Assorted Sub. Layered with an assortment of four varieties of Italian meats and topped with sliced provolone, shredded lettuce, red onions, tomato, mayo, oil & vinegar dressing and a side of cherry peppers, all surrounded by a perfectly toasted sesame roll. This one will keep me coming back for more than pizza.
At this time, the food coma was setting in and I’d realized the family-style dining and storytelling had given us just the right setting to make fast friends while breaking bread! But it was better than that…“A la famiglia!” Jeff rounded out the experience with one last pairing: NY Cheesecake and Sarocco Moscato. The cheesecake was a classic representation of a traditional New York-style cheesecake, creamy and lightly silky paying great compliment to the slight effervescence of the Moscato.
We wrapped up stories, trading selective and important details you’ll want to keep in mind when you plan to visit Home Slice.
- The original Home Slice location is open only 6 days a week, and always closed on Tuesdays. No slices (only whole pizzas) are served from 6:30-9:30 PM.
- More Home Slice, the neighboring, take-away joint is open 7 days a week.
- The outdoor space behind the building will offer free music during the upcoming SXSW 2014, when they will host “Music by the Slice.” No R.S.V.P., wristband or badge required and money raised from alcohol sales will be donated to Urban Roots.
What is your favorite dish at Home Slice?
Disclosure: Home Slice Pizza covered the cost of our meal for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.