Liberty Pie

Liberty Pie doesn't usually meet the 30-minute deadline the pizza delivery boys do (in fact, they don't deliver at all), but that's for the better, Barbara Chisholm explains.

Liberty Pie

1716 South Congress, 383-8880

Mon-Sat, 11am-9pm

The truth is, even lousy pizza is tolerable. That's what all the crummy pizza delivery chains know, they know that you know it, and they know you'll tolerate their second-class goods. These are the restaurants that boast about the real cheese on their pies, for crying out loud! As if this were a rare point of exacting specifications.

While visiting the East Coast this summer, I had the long-overdue delight of quality pizza -- the hand-tossed, thin-crusted, carefully sauced, brick-oven-baked variety that I thought was just a fiction here in the Southwest. Upon my return, I strolled down South Congress and came across Liberty Pie, a pizzeria in the block anchored by Texas French Bread and Dragonsnaps. I asked myself whether I really wanted to taint the memory of my recent delectable pizza with this untested upstart.

I stepped in and the aromas assaulted my senses. When Liberty Pie opened last summer, there was no air conditioning and the place was hot. I don't mean to tout the charms of a joint sans cool air in the beastly days of an Austin summer, but it did lend the place a built-in neighborhoody feel. I might have resisted the fare if they hadn't been handing out free slices to the passersby. Well, if lousy pizza is tolerable, lousy free pizza is downright welcome. So I tried it, as did my seven-year-old. She immediately claimed,"This is just like the pizza we had at the Jersey shore!" Right she was!

It's Liberty Pie, brought to you by Louis Lambert, the boy wonder behind Jo's on South Congress. By now the A/C is fully operational and the pizza shares the bill with sweet pies and gourmet deli items to go. It's become an almost weekly destination for us, and judging by the constant stream of foot traffic, it's a hit with folks who appreciate the difference between tolerable and terrific.

Hand-tossed and baked in a super-hot oven on flour, not cornmeal, these pies rule. Real cheese is just the half of it. Sumptuous sauces, lovingly attended dough, and fabulous toppings will take the Yankees in our midst back to the parlors of old haunts. There are five specialty pizzas offered (all 16" and ranging from $11.50-$14.95), but my own favorite is a combo of fresh spinach (the baby leaf variety used is just right), roasted garlic (sublime), and mushrooms (a variety of crimini, shiitake, and buttons). Pies come in 8" (3.95) and 16" ($9.95) sizes and these prices reflect a simple pie of sauce, parmesean, and mozzarella. Additional toppings will run you $.45 for veggies on an 8", $1 for 16". Meats are $.75 and $1.50 respectively, and cheeses will add $.60 or $1.25 to your order for each. That brings my special to $12.95.

Make it an all-pie affair and try the dessert offerings. Coconut cream ($2.95 a slice) topped with toasted coconut confetti on whipped cream is an old-fashioned delight that is hopelessly out of style and utterly delicious. And the blueberry/peach with crumb topping ($2.95) is difficult to keep in stock; diners snatch up slices almost as soon as the pie hits the shelf.

If you can resist the pizza aroma, you won't be disappointed by the deli case items -- tossed and composed salads, daily entrees such as an utterly satisfying meatloaf, beef tenderloin, and other items that range from swanky to homey. All prepared with the care and expertise fans of Lambert's and Jo's have come to expect.

Liberty Pie doesn't usually meet the 30-minute deadline of the delivery boys. In fact, they don't deliver at all. But if you can last the additional 15-20 minutes (and South Congress is the place to while away some time) then your patience will be supremely rewarded.

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