Most margherita pizzas to found in the Houston area, the vast majority in fact, are lousy: tasteless at best, and exposing cardboard-tasting crusts and cheap, worthless slices of tomatoes at worst, with far too many featuring cheap, industrial-quality mozzarella that adds very little to the enjoyment of the pizza.
The margherita pizza is very simple – it’s just tomato sauce that’s usually uncooked, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves atop a pizza crust that has been quickly baked – but that simplicity is a big obstacle for most restaurants to overcome in making a good margherita pizza. A margherita puts a premium on the quality of the few ingredients, which have no place to hide, and the crust, which should be fairly soft and tasty, playing a bigger role than in most pizzas as there are fewer components. And most local versions are lacking a taste of freshness, a vibrancy, that a good margherita pizza should have.
Some other things I’ve learned:
- Definitely do not order one if it is spelled “margarita” on the menu, a sure sign that the restaurant does not know what it is doing with this pizza. You'd be surprised how often margarita finds its way from the drinks section.
- Be very way if you see tomatoes as one of the ingredients. A proper margherita uses tomato sauce, which will seep into the crust and complement the cheese. Tomato slices don’t have enough moisture to do that, and most tomatoes used in inexpensive and moderately priced Houston restaurants are terrible. There are exceptions like the ones at Amalfi, which leads to another important takeaway:
- Restaurants serving Italian-themed food, especially those with roots in or inclinations to the Naples area, the birthplace of pizza and the margherita, are about the only places you should order a margherita pizza.
If you are thinking about ordering a margherita pizza in the future, you’ve now been warned.
Dolce Vita actually has a margherita pizza that you should order.