Marye's Gourmet Pizza

2712 Bee Caves Rd., 327-5222
Mon-Fri, 11am-8:45pm; Sat, 1pm-8pm

Recipes based on the hallowed combo of tomatoes, cheese, and bread hold a special place in my heart, a place big enough that traditional pizzas don't butt heads with fashionable "gourmet" ones, a space ample enough even for "Take and Bake"-style pizza, the Nineties' fresh-food equivalent to frozen pizza. And I am not alone. Janice and Nolan Marye are carving a niche for themselves by capitalizing on the lust for sauce and cheese combined with freshness and convenience.

Marye's is a small, clean, perky place, with several tables inside and a few picnic tables outside, and as a weekday lunch spot, it does a good business with the daily special. For about $5.89, you get the 7" individual pizza of the day, a simple garden salad, and an iced tea. The pizza of the day may be a conventional margherita pizza, or something really wild like "The Que," an olive-oil glazed crust with barbecued chicken, red onions, cilantro, jalapeños, and smoked Gouda. Each is prepared on a perforated, thin, crispy crust with abundant cornmeal dusted on the bottom. They also offer salads, a wide variety of sandwiches, and calzones. In the past, I've never strayed from the pizza path -- not even to venture into the promising realm of calzones -- but after a friend ordered one, I won't hesitate in the future. For $4.95, you choose a meat and three vegetables from the ingredient list, and they prepare one to specifications. She chose Italian sausage, black olives, mushrooms, and spinach, and received an asymmetrical, handformed pizza crust (the picture of freshness), glazed with red sauce, mozzerella and provolone, stuffed with vegetables and meat, folded and sealed, the all-important cornmeal on the bottom.

I had less luck with the "Red Turkey" sandwich ($4.95). Billed as turkey with lettuce, tomato, no-fat cream cheese, cran-raspberry spread, baby Swiss, and sunflower seeds, it had been revised to include "low-fat mayonnaise," a sweet, yellow, buttery substance on both sides of the bread. The cran-raspberry spread was more like preserves than cranberry sauce, and the overall effect was toast and jam with turkey and tomatoes.

Marye's lacks the atmosphere for dinner, but it seems that that's part of the plan. They'll happily cook a pizza for you, but they'd rather you buy one to take home and cook for yourself. We chose a small "Cheeso Bianco" (10", $7.25), and a large "Stack" (14", $13.75). Prepared right before you pick it up and wrapped in cellophane, these pizzas need to rise at room temperature for 10 minutes before you place them in a 425-degree oven. Each is arranged on parchment paper, so you don't need a pizza stone or even a cookie sheet. Other than popping any crust bubbles or revolving the pie to distribute oven heat evenly, it takes care of itself in 12 to 18 minutes. The "Bianco" cooked into a tasty mix of Parmesan, provolone, mozzerella, Swiss, oregano, and basil, with nicely browned cheeses and a crisp, satisfying crust. We ate that as an appetizer -- a drawback to "Take and Bake" is that you can only cook one pizza at a time, so feeding a crowd would be impractical. Then on to the "Stack," a layered preparation of red sauce, mozzerella, provolone, pepperoni, mushrooms, Italian sausage, and black olive slices. Unfortunately, this pizza left us crying out for a more tangy flavor, probably due to the skimpy measure of red sauce. And if you're comparing this to the frozen pizza option, prices seem high. But they're not nearly as unreasonable when you consider the quality of ingredients, that someone else prepared your dinner, that you can provide your own salad, beer, or dessert -- and that you can lounge around at home while it cooks. -- Meredith Phillips

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