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November 3, 2009

Houston Community Newspapers

Russo's New York Pizzeria StorefrontA local couple is bringing the flavor of Italy to the Missouri City area with the recent opening of a new pizzeria.

Doug and Allyson Huston of Sienna, owners of Russo’s New York Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen, opened the doors of their new franchise in late August.

The couple left behind careers in the corporate world in 2002 and has never looked back.

“We were working for someone else for seven days a week and we weren’t having fun at it anymore and it was one of those things where at least I want to have fun doing what I do, so we thought why not work for ourselves,” Allyson Huston said.

Former professionals for a national chain of retail stores, the couple ran a bed and breakfast inn in New Braunfels, Texas for more than five years before selling the business and deciding to start a new venture.

“The franchise in 2007 was only in the Houston area and was growing really fast and kind of peaked our interest,” Allyson Huston said.

Despite the tightening of loans and credit in the banking industry, the Huston’s were able to secure a loan to help open their business.

“We were in the middle of all of that, but it didn’t impact us, although we did have to go through several banks to find the right loan,” she said.

Russo's 28 inch PizzaThe Italian Kitchen, the newest concept in the New York Pizza franchise, uses a coal-fired oven that runs on black coal mined out of Pennsylvania and allows the pizzas to cook faster and adds a distinct smoky flavor to the pies, according to the couple.

The oven operates on anthracite coal that is loaded into the brick oven several times a day.

“It is hard lump coal like the kind used in a train locomotive and it will heat the oven to up to 1,000 degrees and is super hot,” Allyson Hutson said.

The restaurant also uses only fresh ingredients on all of their pizzas and makes all their dishes are made-to-order.

“So many restaurants these days bring frozen foods off of a truck and heat it up and serve it, where here we actually bring in the raw meats and raw vegetables and make our own dressings and sauces and it all is hand made,” Doug Huston said.

The chef also does daily specials using a variety of fresh meats.

In the first two months since opening its doors, the restaurant has experienced a phenomenal response from customers.

“People are loving the food and the atmosphere and loving the people in the restaurant,” Allyson said.

“It is also is something in the area that is not fast food,” Doug Huston said of the restaurant’s attraction.

A number of their customers come from the Sienna Plantation and surrounding neighborhoods.

“They are just excited to have a restaurant in the area that they don’t have to drive into town for, all they have to do is drive out of their neighborhoods,” Allyson Huston said.

“We have regular customers already that are coming two to three times a week,” she said.

The restaurant offers its trademark specialty pizzas, a full-line of fresh pasta ranging from lasagna to fettuccini alfredo to shrimp tortellini, salads with homemade dressings, coal-fired flatbread bruschettas as well as a variety of appetizers and soups.

“The franchise has always been known for its pizza, but with our Italian Kitchen concept, we have a full on menu of pastas as well,” Allyson Huston said.

“We are doing half of our business in pizza and half of our business in pastas, salads and sandwiches, and we have the benefit of both,” the Missouri City restaurant owner said.

The 2,700 sq. ft. restaurant seats ___ and has brought 22 jobs to the area.

“I am a little heavy out here in the dining area, but wanted to make sure that we have great customer service,” Allyson Huston said of the restaurant’s staff.

The restaurant offers a family-friendly atmosphere that provides a dining environment for both adults and children.

“We are in a young community as well, Sienna Plantation is made up of a number of young families, so we do cater to families here,” Allyson Huston said.

“We also have a wide-variety on the menu where mom and dad can come in and have a nice bottle of wine and eat a great pasta dinner and their kids can have a slice of pizza and gelato, so everyone can be happy,” Doug Huston said.

The restaurant will roll out a new menu in the next two weeks with the start of brunch on Sundays, featuring a range of items from sausage, potato and egg pizzas to breakfast sandwiches to French toast.

In addition to offering a new dining option to area residents, the couple also is giving back to the community.

The pizzeria currently collaborates with Burton Elementary School in Fresno to provide 10 percent back to the school on “Spirit Nights” on overall meals purchased by students, parents and faculty from the school.

“In the first two weeks we were opening I started contacting all of the schools to find out how we can help,” Allyson Huston said. “We also have donated items to area silent auctions to try to give back,” she said.

The couple hopes to open up additional franchise locations in the future.

The restaurant, located at 10350 Highway 6, Ste. G., also offers take-out and catering and is open 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Monday – Sunday.

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