Last week, I joined my uncle and cousin for a birthday celebration at the grand opening of a new pizza joint in Austin, The Pizza Bistro, from Kress Childs of the much-loved Mangia. Two of Mangia’s former locations (Lake Austin and Domain) are now Pizza Bistros.
While Mangia is undoubtedly great at its specialty, Chicago-style stuffed pizza, The Pizza Bistro branches out into a pick-your-own adventure approach that offers not only stuffed, but also New York thin, flatbread, and even gluten-free crust options.
We tried a few New York thins, and each was impressively crispy. Kress, a longtime friend of my uncle’s, said that it was especially this that he wanted to perfect and that he even brought in a consulting pizza chef to get just the right balance between crispy, soft, and doughy. It wasn’t until he raised their oven temperatures by 300 degrees, though, that the crusts came out with that perfect texture.
My uncle’s favorite was the Ravello’s Best with a trio of meats (pepperoni, capicola, and prosciutto), fresh mozzarella, pepperoncinis, black olives, and Roma tomatoes. My cousin went crazy for the Bacon and Blue—ham, smoked bacon, and blue cheese with the addition of caramelized onions at our waiter’s suggestion. “This is what all pizza should taste like,” he said approvingly between bites.
As for me, it was the Shrimp and Spring Mix flatbread that won me over: grilled shrimp, ricotta, green pepper, minced garlic, fresh cilantro, and spicy pickled cherry peppers on a wonderfully soft and chewy flatbread all topped with a pile of lightly dressed, fresh spring mix.
Aside from offering a full range of pizza and crust styles, Kress said one of his main inspirations was the marriage of the Italian tradition with Texas flavors, like barbecue, carnitas, cilantro, and jalapeño. I loved the big kick from the pickled peppers and the freshness of the greens and cilantro on the shrimp pie.
They’ve also got an exceptionally diverse and upscale drink selection for a pizza joint—the only pizza place in Austin with a cool bar and wine list if I’m not mistaken (other than Vespaio, which is of course much more than pizza.)
We enjoyed local Live Oak brews on tap and sampled a few of the specialty infused local spirits. Z Tequila with jalapeño, habanero, and serrano was insanely tasty and seared the back of my throat. Deep Eddy Vodka with cracked coffee beans was so smooth and delicious that my cousin happily sipped down the whole thing.
And then there was dessert—the Table Apple Pie. Made from the pizza dough, the pie’s crust is crisp and chewy rather than flaky and dry like a traditional pie crust, and it curves up over the edges like a Dutch pancake. The apple filling tastes fresh and modestly spiced, pairing perfectly with the star of the dish—a brandy butter sauce that is thick and sultry like honey, warm, buttery and wonderful.
Our meal was fantastic, and I’ll definitely be back—but I fully disclose that my uncle’s closeness to Kress and their dining with us could have swayed our experience. The kitchen and staff seem to still be ramping up (as is often the case at opening), and it will be crucial to The Pizza Bistro’s success that they’re able to clean up some sloppiness and whip the wait staff into shape. As we were dining, a family of three came in, sat down, and left after an extended period with no waiter in sight. Not a good look for opening night.
That said, I’m certainly not ready to write them off. Even the best have growing pains, and considering the solidness of the menu and attention to good execution, I’m willing to stick around until they push through their awkward stage.
Austinites interested in trying The Pizza Bistro should note that the location we ate at is called “Domain” although it is not located within the Domain shopping center; rather, it’s at the corner of Burnet and Mopac where the Mangia used to be next to Yoga Yoga and Tacodeli.
The Pizza Bistro
12001 Burnet Rd.
2401 Lake Austin Blvd.