Thursday, February 7, 2013

Niki's Pizzeria Up North

Okay. We were way the hell up north to test out some dim sum, and it occurred to both of us simultaneously that we weren’t THAT far away from Niki’s Pizzeria, one of our favorite pizzerias in town. The last time we did a big pizza round up and tested a bunch of them, Niki’s surfed along way up towards the top of the bunch, perhaps the closest to a real New York City style of pizza. Pizza’s really not that hard to do correctly: you need good flour and water and living yeast, a simple tomato sauce that actually tastes like tomatoes, quality cheese, and an oven that gets hot enough. Anything beyond that is gravy. If you have those simple things and a modicum of good sense, you should be cranking out great pizzas. Niki’s does crank out great pizza, and it’s amazing how many of the other pizzerias in town don’t, yet they somehow manage to stay in business.  

All that aside, we stopped in at Nikki’s North, which is in the Techridge Shopping Center (Tech Ridge Shops, 1100 Center Ridge Dr. #320, 512-989-6868),
The other location is in Dobie Mall, down by the UT campus. Niki's is exactly like a NYC pizzeria: there is a long counter with portions of cooked pies on display (ready to go into the oven if you want a slice heated up), a couple of huge pizza ovens, ten tables or so, a commercial stove, a soda dispenser, and a mountain of folded pizza boxes. Niki’s pizza tastes exactly like the great pizza I’ve had in NYC: thin crispy crust with patchy mottled charred spots on the bottom. The crust sits on the bed of the oven, not on one of those metal pizza screens. The red sauce is judiciously applied and not over-thought; it tastes like ripe tomatoes were smeared across the top. You want oregano, or garlic, or crushed red pepper? All of that is on the table in shakers; throw some on your pie if you like. The cheese melts beautifully and has good rich flavor. No pools of grease; no fake flavors.

We opted for Italian sausage, which is sliced rounds here, not the crumbles (the crumbles usually have a percentage of soy filler, or come IQF frozen in a 10-pound bag). The sausage tastes like fennel and pork and ham, just like it’s supposed to. The grated parmesan on the table tastes like real parmesan, with a rich nutty flavor. Niki is using good stuff and making good pizzas. The other thing? Affordability: a 16-inch large with one topping was $11 bucks more or less; somewhere in that range. They run all kinds of specials, and also have the usual selection of pastas and pizza-generated sandwiches (calzones, stromboli). I haven’t eaten any of the other menu items except for a nice, crisp salad one visit, but if they are as good as Niki’s pizza pie, they’re great.

Mick Vann ©     

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