Reviews & Editorials


Latest Italian eatery has value in Ewa Beach


Posted: Wed, 9 Jul 2014 01:30 AM

By geographically challenged townie calculus, Ewa Beach is the same as Kapolei, so one starts wondering how one more Italian restaurant will be able to compete with those already in place, like Assaggio and Le Nonne.

Of course, for those who live in Ewa, the distance to Kapolei is the equivalent of driving from Liliha to Waikiki or Chinatown to Kaimuki. When you live in a particular neighborhood, you sometimes don't want to go far for food, and 4 miles might as well be Siberia. I have friends who say that if not for their significant others, they would starve on those days they feel too lazy to leave the house.

So, the west side has one more Italian restaurant now that Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen has opened in the new Laulani Village in Ewa Beach, home to Safeway, City Mill, Ross, Walgreens and Petco.

First-generation Italian Anthony Russo opened his first restaurant, Anthony's Pizzeria, in 1978 after moving from New York to Clear Lake, Texas, where New York-style Italian cuisine and pizzas were hard to find. He also expanded into Houston by opening Cafe Anthony and the upscale Italian Russo Cafe Anthony. Soon he was franchising his pizzeria concept, and in 2008 launched Russo's Coal-Fired Pizzeria as a second franchise, combining pizzas with casual fine dining in a nonfussy, family-friendly environment.

Locally, Robert Carlisle is the owner and operator of the Ewa Beach Russo's, and I think bringing it to the west side is genius. Middle-of-the-road fare doesn't make Russo's a destination restaurant for outliers, but the food here is a cut above typical franchise fare, making this a nice addition to the bedroom community. It's special enough for holidays, parties and anniversaries, and accessible enough for typical weeknights when you just want to pick up a pizza or don't want to cook.

Stone floors, warm colors and tiled countertops give Russo's a simultaneously welcoming, casual and sophisticated vibe. You'll sit down to a menu with such vast offerings that you may have trouble deciding what to order. For starters there are crowd-pleasing coal-fired garlic knots ($7.95), though you're also offered a complimentary basket of herbed focaccia with oil and balsamic vinegar, so I don't know if you'd want to double up on carbs, particularly if you're also thinking about ordering a pizza.

Calamari fritti ($10.95) is typical, but enhanced by a sprinkling of garlic and herbs. Coal-fired wings ($10.95) have the tang of vinegar and come with two sauces so you have the option of cool ranch or thin, vinegary Tabasco meets Buffalo-style hot sauce. Best of the bunch was an order of meatballs pomodoro ($5.95), coated in a sauce of chianti-marinara, with sliced mushrooms and chopped basil. The two meatballs were spiked with garlic and herbs for flavor throughout.

Salads read more impressive than they are, mostly comprising romaine lettuce with a small sprinkling of mentioned ingredients. The Mediterranean ($6.95 small, $12.95 large) has artichoke hearts, pine nuts, sundried tomatoes and gorgonzola.

Also offered are sandwiches and flatbreads, though most people will gravitate toward the pizzas and pastas.

I love the crisp, cracker-textured thin crusts of the pizza here, though they tend to get soggy toward the center. There are 17 specialty pizzas and six Neapolitan square pizzas, and you're also welcome to create your own pizza, starting at $15.95 and $2 per topping for a medium (12-inch) pizza or $2.95 per topping for a large (16-inch) pizza. There are 34 toppings to choose from, including basics of Italian sausage, Canadian bacon and mushrooms, to options of Angus beef, sopressata salami and kalua pulled pork.

The New York Village specialty pizza ($21.95 medium/$24.95 large) sets the standard with its classic combination of light tomato sauce, crumbled Italian sausage, pepperoni, beef, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, black olives, roasted peppers and mozzarella.

When it comes to pastas, I find the basic marinara sauce rather flat here, which suits those diners who can't stomach much garlic, onions and basil. So I was surprised by the chicken puttanesca ($15.95), with penne pasta and marinara in which you can actually taste the desired anchovy, more than at other Italian restaurants in town. Still, it lacked a spicy kick, though you can add red pepper flakes at the table. For restaurateurs it's better for customers to add their own spice to taste.

Chicken in marsala sauce over fettuccine ($17.95) was nice and tender, though not all the wine had burned off the marsala sauce. You won't find the kind of meat that scares nonfoodies, like veal and lamb. So instead of veal saltimbocca or veal picatta, you get chicken, at $17.95 and $18.95, respectively.

Gnocchi ($15.95) here is heavy and doughy, served in a thick, creamy pesto sauce. The best thing about the sauce was the crunch of pine nuts.

For dessert I went for the one thing made in-house: tiramisu with its espresso- and Kahlua-soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone tidily layered in a cup. It seemed to disappear in one quick gulp.

Pizza News


Latest Italian eatery has value in Ewa Beach


July 9, 2014

Middleastexpat Logo

Russo's New York Pizzeria - Middleastexpat


March 30, 2014

Dubai Media Inc Logo

Anthony in the Studio One TV show - Dubai Meia

Dubai Media Inc

February 20, 2014 Logo

Deal or Dud - Air Fryer

February 19, 2014

FSR Magazine Logo

Making Brunch Profitable

FSR Magazine

February 10, 2014

Stephanie Silverstein, Reporter- Pacific Business News Logo

Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen Opening for Dinner Monday

Stephanie Silverstein, Reporter- Pacific Business News

January 27, 2014

Tulsa World Logo

Review : Russo's at Tuscany on Yale in Tulsa

Tulsa World

October 3, 2013

Abu Dhabi Week Logo

Slice of the Big Apple

Abu Dhabi Week

September 9, 2013

Chynna Foucek Logo

Restaurant Review: Russo's New York Pizzeria

Chynna Foucek

July 23, 2013

Houston Business Journal Logo

Face to Face with Anthony Russo of Russo's New York Pizzeria

Houston Business Journal

June 4, 2013

QSR Magazine Logo

One to Watch: Russo's New York Pizzeria

QSR Magazine

May 9, 2013

Gillian Duncan - The National UAE Logo

Texas-sized slice of New York for UAE

Gillian Duncan - The National UAE

April 5, 2013

Houston Chronicle Logo

So what's your favorite Houston pizza?

Houston Chronicle

March 21, 2013

PMQ Magazine Logo

Product Spotlight : Gluten-Free Sweets

PMQ Magazine

December 5, 2012

KHOU Great Day Houston Logo

Chef Anthony Russo Demonstrates How to Make Pumpkin Pizza

KHOU Great Day Houston

November 16, 2012

QSR Magazine Logo

Flex Casual: The Best of Both Worlds

QSR Magazine

November 16, 2012

Crain's New York Business Logo

Fro-yo, burger joints turn out for franchise expo

Crain's New York Business

November 16, 2012

Arkansas Business Logo

Group Opens Russo's : Little Rock or Jacksonville?

Arkansas Business

November 16, 2012

TradeArabia News Service Logo

Top US pizza brand debuts in UAE

TradeArabia News Service

August 31, 2012

Andy Scott - CPI Financial Logo

Russo's New York Pizzeria wants a pizza of the UAE action

Andy Scott - CPI Financial

August 31, 2012

Restaurant News Logo

Russo’s Brand Celebrates 20 Years of Success

Restaurant News

August 26, 2012

Angie's Big Love of Food Logo

Russo's New York Pizzeria - Memphis, TN

Angie's Big Love of Food

May 17, 2012

Celiac Sprue Association Logo

Russo’s New York Pizzeria earnes CSA Recognition Seal

Celiac Sprue Association

April 2, 2012

Grocery Headquarters Logo

Russo’s New York Pizzeria Bites Into Gluten-Free Pizza Line

Grocery Headquarters

February 13, 2012 Logo

Russo’s Has Appetite for Expansion

January 13, 2012

Nation's Restaurant News Logo

Flex-casual format gains popularity

Nation's Restaurant News

January 12, 2012

QSR Magazine Logo

Treat Customers Like Your Boss' Family

QSR Magazine

January 8, 2012

Pizza Today Logo

5 Questions with Chef Anthony Russo

Pizza Today

January 6, 2012

Houston Chronicle Logo

Brick ovens heat up franchise sales for restaurant

Houston Chronicle

January 2, 2012

Houston Press Logo

Can One Person Eat a 28-Inch Pizza In an Hour?

Houston Press

October 25, 2011

Ron Ruggless Logo

Q&A: Chef Anthony Russo

Ron Ruggless

August 20, 2011 Logo

Russo's Italian Kitchen Coming to Conway

August 8, 2011

Pizza Marketplace Logo

Bringing New York slices to Texas and beyond

Pizza Marketplace

July 25, 2011

Dallas Business Journal Logo

Russo's looks for Dallas expansion

Dallas Business Journal

July 20, 2011 Logo

US pizza firm eyes major Gulf region expansion

June 7, 2011

Multi-Unit Franchisee Magazine Logo

Russo's New York Pizza Debuts in Dubai

Multi-Unit Franchisee Magazine

June 7, 2011

Franchisee Satisfation Awards Logo

2011 Top Franchise - Russo's New York Pizzeria

Franchisee Satisfation Awards

April 13, 2011

Entrepreneur Magazine Logo

Russo's New York Pizzeria rated Top 2011 Franchise

Entrepreneur Magazine

April 7, 2011

Franchisee Satisfation Awards Logo

Franchisee Satisfation Awards - 2011 Honoree

Franchisee Satisfation Awards

March 23, 2011

TradeArabia News Service Logo

New York pizza firm for Gulfood Dubai

TradeArabia News Service

January 29, 2011

Jay Gambino Esparza Logo

I was in Texas eating a real NY pizza!

Jay Gambino Esparza

December 14, 2010

Marketing Successories Logo

Russo’s New York Ready to Cover the World

Marketing Successories

April 12, 2010

Houston Chronicle Logo

Houston pizza goes to Las Vegas — and China

Houston Chronicle

April 8, 2010

Chain Leader Logo

Russo's New York Pizza Honored by Rachel Ray

Chain Leader

March 10, 2010

QSR Magazine Logo

Russo's New York Pizzeria Owner To Visit U.A.E.

QSR Magazine

February 10, 2010

Click2Houston Logo

2009 Nominee... Best Pizza in Houston Contest


January 25, 2010

QSR Magazine Online Logo

Italian Concept Wants Healthy Hearts

QSR Magazine Online

January 20, 2010

Entrepreneur Magazine Logo

Entrepreneur Magazine Recognizes Russo's New York Pizzeria

Entrepreneur Magazine

January 8, 2010

Houston Community Newspapers Logo

Sienna couple open new Missouri City pizzeria

Houston Community Newspapers

November 3, 2009

Zagat Survey Logo

Dear Anthony,

Zagat Survey

October 27, 2009

Herald-Voice Logo

New York Pizzeria


October 27, 2009

Citysearch Logo

Best of Citysearch: Houston Restaurants


October 27, 2009

AOL CityGuide Logo

AOL Best Pizza 2007: New York Pizzeria

AOL CityGuide

October 27, 2009

U.S. Local Business Association Logo

2008 Houston Award - Best Pizza

U.S. Local Business Association

October 27, 2009

Cook's Tour: Alison Cook Logo

My Russo's Coal-Fired Pizza pix : Pure Torment

Cook's Tour: Alison Cook

August 19, 2008

Pizza Today Logo

Top 100 Pizza Companies 2008

Pizza Today

July 8, 2008