Reviews & Editorials

Houston Chronicle Logo

Houston pizza goes to Las Vegas — and China

Author: Houston Chronicle

Posted: Thu, 8 Apr 2010 03:53 PM


Anthony Russo wasn't panicky.

“Just concerned.”

International Pizza Expo judges would arrive in 10 minutes to taste his plain cheese pie (this was the “traditional” portion of the contest), but his pizza was already done.

This is the largest pizza trade show in the world. Six thousand pizza people from around the world are packed into the Las Vegas Convention Center. Big prize money and global bragging rights are at stake.

It's no time for a limp, cold pizza.

“A good pizza has to be served within one minute after coming out of the oven,” said Russo, founder of the New York Pizzeria chain in Houston.

Ten minutes might as well be tomorrow. Not only would his pizza be limp and cold, it would look like leftovers from the back of your refrigerator. The cheese would be pasty. The sauce would soak into the crust and lose its color. It'd be nothing short of a disaster.

Forget reheating the pizza. This is the Super Bowl of professional pizza contests. Popping a pizza back in the oven is for amateurs.

Ten minutes? No problem. Russo shooed his staff from the table and went to work. He made a pizza in 60 seconds flat. He pounded the dough with his fist. He stretched it on the back of his hands. He slapped it, flipped it back and forth and tossed it in the air. Then he ladled just the right amount of sauce and sprinkled two handfuls of mozzarella evenly across the crust.

It was like watching Picasso paint. Russo's pizza was picture-perfect, bubbling hot from the oven, just as the judges arrived.

It wasn't the first pizza he ever made.

“I started making pizzas in New Jersey, in my family's restaurant, when I was a kid,” he said. “I grew up in a kitchen. I've been making pizza all my life.”

Russo moved to Houston in the early ' 90s. He opened his first New York Pizzeria — it's still there, on the corner of Greenbriar and Holcombe — in 1994. Then he opened one downtown. Still there. Then Meyerland. Still there.

Now there are 32 New York Pizzerias in the Houston area. Russo owns five of them. The rest are franchised, but he maintains tight control, creating the menus, picking the ingredients, training the cooks.

“It's been pretty remarkable, the way we've expanded,” he said. “But now we're getting ready to make an even bigger leap. A few months ago, I marketed my concept at a food industry show in Dubai, and we're going to be opening New York Pizzerias in China next year.”

Russo said the pizza business has changed — but he hasn't. And his pizza won't.

“The pizza you get today at New York Pizzeria is exactly the same product as the first day we opened in 1994. It is identical. Not one thing is different.

“I get my flour from a supplier in New York. The cheese is from Wisconsin. The dry herbs and olive oil are from Italy. I have my own recipe for sausage, and we have a meat company in Ohio make it for us. We make our dough fresh in each restaurant every day. That's something the big chains can't do. Consistency and quality and putting out a product you're proud of. That's how you become successful.”

Russo is a traditionalist. “To me, pizza is plain cheese on a thin crust.” He makes a face at “gourmet” pizzas, like the Cheddar cheese with chicken, walnuts and dried cherries concoction being made a few tables over.

“They have two contests at the Pizza Expo, traditional and gourmet. I'm entered in both, but I'm really here to meet people and talk about the business and see what's going on with the industry. … Winning would be great, but it's more important just to stay connected and keep up with the times.”

Russo didn't win. First place in the traditional division went to Eddy Rossignoli from Venice, Italy. First prize in the gourmet category went to Theo Kalogeracos from Jakarta, Indonesia, and Perth, Australia. His winning pizza was covered with mozzarella cheese, prawns marinated in wild rocket pesto, prosciutto, lemon juice and garlic cream sauce.

“That just shows that pizza is worldwide now. It's different everywhere. If you put some New Yorkers in the same room with people from Chicago, it's like a pizza fist fight could break out. People are passionate about pizza. … When we get to China, we will sell our regular New York Pizzeria product, but we'll work in some Chinese spices.

“Pretty cool, New York Pizzeria from Houston, going to China, huh?”




Pizza News

Middleastexpat Logo

Russo's New York Pizzeria - Middleastexpat

Middleastexpat

March 30, 2014

Dubai Media Inc Logo

Anthony in the Studio One TV show - Dubai Meia

Dubai Media Inc

February 20, 2014

http://www.myfoxdfw.com Logo

Deal or Dud - Air Fryer

http://www.myfoxdfw.com

February 19, 2014

FSR Magazine Logo

Making Brunch Profitable

FSR Magazine

February 10, 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

Franchising.com Logo

Russo’s Has Appetite for Expansion

Franchising.com

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

ArkansasBusiness.com Logo

Russo's Italian Kitchen Coming to Conway

ArkansasBusiness.com

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

ArabianBusiness.com Logo

US pizza firm eyes major Gulf region expansion

ArabianBusiness.com

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

Click2Houston

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

Herald-Voice

October 27, 2009

Citysearch Logo

Best of Citysearch: Houston Restaurants

Citysearch

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