Everyone approaches pizza a little differently, and different is good in a world of too much uniformity. There’s the thin crust, which gets scorched on the bottom while the toppings sort of melt together in the blazing heat of the oven. Others go for a thicker crust, sturdy enough to hold a little extra in the way of toppings. And deep-dish pizza fans go for what non-fans politely call a casserole, in which each slice is stacked high with a lot of everything.
You can also go into the handmade approach to the crust, no matter how thin or thick, as well as the finest and freshest of ingredients spread out on top. And, in my book, there’s the delicate use of anchovies, which work to unify the rest into a boldly flavored whole. (Who am I kidding? Your touch with the anchovies doesn’t have to be delicate. Just make sure they’re included. And I’ll take a few on the side while you’re at it.)
Recent visits to two pizza parlors on different sides of town convinced me that all’s well in San Antonio when it comes to this favorite food.
The first was to Capos Deck Oven Pizza, 17676 Blanco Road, just inside Loop 1604. Hidden in a tiny strip mall next to the mighty fine El Jalisco Grill & Cantina, the restaurant makes no pretension when it comes to ambience. There are a few bar stools, if you want to eat your pizza by the slice on site or wait for your order to go. Instead of focusing on furnishings, owner Ricky Perna’s attention seems to be squarely on producing a Buffalo, N.Y.-style pie that will have you reaching for a second slice even before you’ve finished the first.
That certainly was the case with the Capos Supremo with pepperoni, Italian sausage, black olives, roasted onions, mushrooms and, for dramatic effect, bright strips of roasted red peppers. The Vegetali was a sight to behold, with artichoke hearts, red pepper strips, spinach, red onions, mushrooms and more artfully arranged on top so that each bite brought a different fresh vegetable taste.
The crust for both was not wafer or cracker thin. In true New York style, it had a little more body, but it packed a good yeasty flavor and was sturdy enough to hold that mouthwatering array of toppings. The same dough was used to good effect in the stromboli with its pepperoni, meatballs and ocean of melted mozzarella and romano cheeses, and a meaty calzone that had more cheese than one person could handle with good meat flavor in every bite.
A solid cold Italian sub, with tangy red onions offsetting the richness of the ham, Genoa salami and cheeses, finished out this meal with friends in style. I remember owner Ricky Perna from the days when he owned Goomba’s, which I had loved for its honest approach to Italian-American favorites. It’s great to see he hasn’t lost his touch.
Michael Sohocki’s Il Forno on Nogalitos is more authentic Italian or perhaps chef-driven Italian, but most every bite rated raves from the same group of friends. The interior of the restaurant is every bit as spare as Capos, though more spacious.
Sohocki, from Restaurant Gwendolyn, has assembled a group of cooks who stress the visual appeal of the dishes they offer as well as the blending of flavors, with the end result being art on several levels. We’ll let the pictures of the various dishes we tried — and we kept trying more and more — do most of the talking. Just remember that each dish contained some surprises that will haunt us until our next visit. Chief among them were the spicy sausage slices on the antipasti tray, the farm fresh egg on the pizza with prosciutto and sauteed parsley, the tangy croutons in the watermelon panzanella, the fresh tomatoes on the puttanesca pizza.
I’ll let the photos of the food at Il Forno tell the story. All were eye appealing, and all tasted even better than they looked.
Don’t settle for boring or chain creations when it comes to your pizza, people. People all over this town are creating soul-satisfying pies just for you, as both Capos and Il Forno ably demonstrate.
Capos Deck Oven Pizza
17676 Blanco Road