HOUSTON VOICE www.houston voice.com
JUNE 20, 2003 17
dining j.a. chapman
Delicious pizza, subs and more served up
to delight patrons at this family eatery
Ponzo's a Midtown gem
TUCKED AWAY IN A MIDTOWN STRIP
center is an unexpected slice of pizza
heaven. Ponzo's is a small, family-owned
place, serving up pizza, subs and a few
more Italian standards. Don't let the
unassuming exterior fool you: Ponzo's is
a true neighborhood joint with some of
the best pizza around.
I took along a friend who considers
himself something of a New York style
pizza expert. Being the purist, he insisted
we start with a slice of plain cheese pizza
($1.-50) to properly assess the quality of
the crust, sauce and cheese. A perfectly
crispy crust provided the base for the
zesty sauce, rich with tomato and
oregano. Just the right amount of cheese
topped it off and, as my friend noted,
they'd browned it for a moment to add a
hint of crispiness — a nice touch. He gave
the pizza high marks, and had to admit it
rivaled his favorite pizza in Houston.
We also ordered a slice of Ponzo's deluxe
($3) to provide a comparison. The same
excellent crust, sauce and cheese provided
the base, and it came loaded with toppings.
High quality meats, including sliced — not
crumbled — Italian sausage, were a treat,
and the one slice was almost a meal in itself.
The pizza is great, but it's not the only
thing on the menu. The huge calzone ($7.50)
arrived on a pizza platter, pre-cut for easy
access. It easily served two people. While
the crust was excellent, overall the calzone
was a bit bland. The homemade marinara
served on the side had good flavor, but was
disappointingly watery and didn't add a lot.
A better choice was the cheese ravioli
($7.25). While the ravioli themselves were
somewhat thin and unremarkable, the traditional meat sauce more than made up for it.
A richly layered blend of tomato, oregano,
garlic and fennel, it made the dish. We found
ourselves breaking off pieces of the excellent calzone crust and dipping them in the
sauce, for our own Italian creation.
Being primarily a takeout joint,
Ponzo's doesn't have a liquor license, but
they'll set you up with chilled glasses if
you bring your own. Spec's is conveniently located across the street, or you can go
next door to the Dog House Tavern and
grab a beverage of your choice.
PONZO'S ALSO SERVES HOT AND COLD
subs. The Mouthwatering Meatball sub ($6
for a nine-inch) was a hearty interpretation of an old classic. The large, spicy
meatballs were a treat and clearly homemade. Served in an outstanding crusty sub
roll, topped with more of that delicious
meat sauce and a bit of romano cheese,
this sandwich was a real meal.
As good as the meatball sub was, even
better was the Ponzo's Original Sub ($6 for a
nine-inch). A toasted sub roll is loaded with
hard salami, cotto salami, mortadella, pro-
volone cheese, lettuce, tomato, and diced
pepperoncini, and topped with Ponzo's orig
inal vinaigrette. With high quality meats
and cheeses, sweet and spicy pepperoncini
making it zing and the vinaigrette melding
the flavors, this sub is the real deal. During
the hot summer months, a cool sub like
Ponzo's Original really satisfies.
Ponzo's is something of a family tradition. The original Ponzo's was in
California, and run by the grandparents
of the owners here. There are photos of
the old place and of the movie stars who
ate there hanging on the wall here. Copies
of the grandparents' Ellis Island entrance
certificates add to the homey feel.
Our waitress tried to talk us into trying a cannoli for dessert, but when we saw
them lined up the cooler, covered with colored sprinkles, drizzled with chocolate
sauce and topped with maraschino cherries, we just couldn't do it. A great cannoli
doesn't need to be tarted up.
We opted for the cheesecake ($2.50)
instead. I wondered if a pizza joint could
make a good cheesecake, but I shouldn't
have worried. It was so light and creamy
it had to be made with mascarpone, not
the cream cheese that typifies most
American cheesecakes. Even the graham
cracker crust was still crunchy. It was an
ideal end to a very satisfying meal.
As we sat outside at one of the three
checkered cloth-covered tables, sipping our
wine and enjoying the breeze through the
old live oaks, Ponzo's seemed like the perfect neighborhood spot. Locals from the surrounding Midtown apartments and town-
homes kept stopping by to pick up a pizza
or dine in. The aroma of garlic and tomatoes wafted through the air. It's just what
you imagine your neighborhood pizzeria
should be. Midtown is lucky to have it.
Houston, TX 77006
Food: W WWW
Service: WWW n
•"= Stay home and eat cereal
WW= Well, if you really must
111- Fine for all but the finnicky
W W W W=Worth more than a 20-minute drive
W W W W W=As good as you'll find in this city
"If you have tdTSkr-y ou'sfioTJIdn't come"
Mature Audiences - Strong Language - Nudity
written by Robert Chesley
Directed by Joe Watts
Starring Brett Cullum & Glen Fillmore
Through JULY 12th • Fridays and Saturdays
Curtain: 8PM • Tickets: S20 • Reservations 713-522-2204
1415 California St. Houston, Texas 77006
Lunch Buffet 1 1 am - 2pm
Dinner 5pm - 10pm
and Belinis All Day!
TASTE OF MEXICO
OPEN 24 HRS. EXCEPT TUES/WED NIGHTS CLOSE 3AM-6AM
813 RICHMOND AVE. • 1 BLK E OF MONTROSE
BEST TAMALES • QUESADILLAS
MENUDO • FAJITAS • CALDOS
AWARD WINNING MARGARITAS
SPECIAL OF THE MONTH
• 1.99 FROZEN MARGARITAS
•1.99 HUEVOS RANCHEROS
TREAT YOUR SELF TO OUR ORIGINAL
MEXICAN FOOD. ALWAYS FRESH,
AT AFFORABLE PRICES.
TO GO ORDERS WELCOME: 713-522-2365.