Drive Down Highway 290 For a Taste of Naples at Pieous Pizza
Revisiting Naples and New York by Way of Highway 290
Something extraordinary is happening on the outskirts of Austin. A funky little restaurant is cornering the market on two disparate food groups: Neapolitan pizza and pastrami. That’s pretty much all Pieous offers, but they’re so delicious that other options seem superfluous. A strange combo, you say? Tell that to the hordes who trek to Pieous daily, patiently queuing up for pizza that rivals Naples’ and pastrami that competes with New York’s.
Pieous is the brainchild of Josh and Paige Kaner, two foodies who ditched California and their corporate jobs to open Pieous in 2013 in an old BBQ joint near Dripping Springs. Why pizza and pastrami? Well, Josh is a long-time pizza junkie who’s been dabbling in pies for decades. As for the pastrami, the Kaners hated to waste the smoker abandoned by the previous owner, so rather than offer the ubiquitous brisket, they chose pastrami. A perfect pairing was born.
Josh oversees the pizza and pastrami, while Paige is in charge of salads and dessert. Almost everything is made from scratch. The pizza is some of the best in Austin and authentically Neapolitan — with the papers to prove it. Pieous is a member of AVPN, the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, an Italian designation given to pizzerias that meet strict Neapolitan requirements. Its delicious dough is made from a sourdough starter created by Josh decades ago. Like any true Neapolitan pie, it has a thin bottom with a pillowy, chewy, charred crust that bakes in less than 90 seconds.
Pieous offers classics like Margherita, Pepperoni and Marinara, but the quality of each pie takes them beyond ordinary with ingredients like fresh mozzarella made in-house daily. It also gleefully steers away from the traditional with offerings like the House on Fire with Calabrian peppers, sopressata, spicy onions and crushed chili; and the Bacon Bleu with bacon marmalade, bleu cheese and arugula.
Tender, moist and flavorful, Pieous offers pastrami in various forms, including a mile-high sandwich served on homemade sourdough bread. I also love the Pieous Plate, a generous platter of sliced pastrami, pickles, marinated onions, mustard and sourdough bread.
Although pizza and pastrami are Pieous’ calling cards, don’t overlook its starters and desserts. The Pieous Sampler is a delightful antipasto platter and the Caesar salad is classic perfection. Paige is a talented baker and makes all the tempting desserts. Her blueberry pie bursts with fresh fruit and her outstanding cheesecake is dense and creamy. Other sweets include tiramisu, brownies and giant cookies. Additionally, homemade pastries, coffee and tea are sold next door at Pieous’ mini-bakery, Pie-é-tea.
In addition to their cooking skills, Josh and Paige personally remodeled the building, leaving the exterior purposefully rustic, while updating the interior with a cavernous wood-burning oven surrounded by a sleek marble bar. Concrete floors and wooden tables are surrounded by chalkboard walls scrawled with clever sayings. A nod to the Kaners’ three children, who are frequently seen scampering around the restaurant, one corner is devoted exclusively to kids, who can create their own chalkboard designs. Pizza and pastrami may seem like an unlikely pair, but just like Josh and Paige Kaner, they’re a match made in heaven.