Austin's newest pie parlor brings the East Coast to the Third.
Reviewed by Barbara Chisholm, Fri., Aug. 1, 2003
Rounders Pizzeria1203 W. Sixth, 477-0404
Monday-Thursday, 11:30am-10pm; Friday-Sunday, 2-10pm
The search for the elusive pie of expertly thrown, suitably crisp crust topped with a sauce of depth and taste has been a hit-or-miss affair. A pizza at a shop in the Jersey shore has been the standard by which all subsequent pies have been judged. Let me establish the criteria: The crust must be crisp on the bottom, not soft. Or, god forbid, soggy. And it must have flavor; cardboard crust is so standard these days that it's a revelation to eat a pie built on a base of carefully kneaded, raised, and flavorful dough. The sauce can't be over-salted canned tomatoes with some tired old dried oregano, either. Garlic should play a part. And the cheese. Fresh mozzarella is all the rage with foodies, but truth be known, in a pizza I am perfectly satisfied with regular mozzarella in proper proportion to the pie as a whole. Smothering the whole disc with an inch of cheese cannot and should not be used to disguise the inferior flavor of what lies beneath.
Up until recently, I've found only a couple really acceptable, no, good pizzas here in Austin. My newest addition to that short list: Rounders Pizzeria on West Sixth.
The menu is simple and puts the spotlight where it should be: on the pie. There are a variety of salads ranging from $3-6, so I began with the house salad ($6). It's an enormous soup plate brimming with fresh romaine and absolutely smothered in fresh mushrooms. Shredded mozzarella, kalamata olives, and dried cranberries are included, and the whole thing is tossed with a nice balsamic vinaigrette that is just sweet enough and just tart enough for the olive/cranberry combination. A basket of two warm bread rolls made from the pizza dough and topped with a generous dose of garlic and salt came with the salad. It was a harbinger of good things to come: The rolls were yeasty, crusty, chewy, and delicious. And huge. Do not, despite their goodness, finish them. You'll be sorry when the pizza comes.
Pies come in two sizes: the 14-inch Casino ($7) and 18-inch Casino Real ($11). Allegedly, the smaller Casino pie is for one or two players but two of us, both robust eaters, couldn't finish it off. The heritage of this pie is from Long Island, where owner/thrower Adam Garber learned the art from his cousin, who operates a pizzeria. He learned well: Our pie had a lovely crust that was crisp and deliciously studded with near black spots. By the third slice, it succumbed to sogginess, but perhaps we were lingering too long over the luscious slices. Sitting atop is a sauce that meets the crust in flavor. For toppings, we opted for half of the pie with fresh basil and the other studded with kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, and mushrooms. Toppings start at $2 for one and are $1 for each additional topping. I could have stood more basil, but they were generous with the others, especially the whole olives. The pizza was propped on a proper pizza stand on the table (the better to preserve the crust) and came to the table scalding hot out of the oven. There's a reasonable selection of wine by the glass (starting at $7 a glass and going up) and beer ($3 all) to quaff with your pizza if you want something more lubricating than sodas. You'll want to linger, too, for despite the genuine pizzeria cuisine, the restaurant is cozy in a home with dark walls and golden ceilings. It's a lovely location serving pizza that Garber candidly admits would find plenty of competition in Jersey or New York, but is outstanding in these parts.
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