After experiencing pizza heaven at Home Slice, I went to visit some sites of the old Austin I remembered when I lived in Texas 15 years ago. I took a stroll down Sixth Street and walked through the gorgeous Driskill Hotel. I headed towards the Paramount Theatre, a place where I saw many Texas greats such as Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, and Jerry Jeff Walker perform. When I walked across the street to snap a photo of the Paramount, I spotted Cozzoli’s Pizza. Their sandwich board boasted “From New York: Voted Best Pizza in Austin Since 1981.” The Snob suddenly found room for another slice.
Located on Congress just a few blocks from the Capitol, Cozzoli’s sits on a busy city block in the heart of the downtown business district. They sure seemed to be in the right place: They had a bustling lunchtime crowd. Heading in, I walked past an expanse of tables and chairs to the end of the long line at the counter in the back. Their assortment of Italian wares and the wide variety of specialty slices on display behind the counter made me feel like I was at Sbarro in a shopping mall. They even had the same kind of plastic lettered-sign hanging over their wide-bodied pizza oven.
I ordered a slice of cheese ($3.05) and watched them load it into the oven alongside perhaps a dozen or so other slices. It didn’t take long. I carried my slice on its paper plate and tray over to a table just like I would at the mall.
Sizing up my slice, it looked close to classic but the cheese just didn’t look right—it was pale in color and heavy in dose. When I picked it up, it was mushy, lacking crispness and dripping in oil. The cheese and tomato sauce were off in both mix and flavor tasting as bland as they looked. All I can say is at least the crust was thin. Cozzoli’s has not only matched Sbarro in terms of their design, but also with their product. I decided it was just not pizza I’d go back for unless I was desperate. After it sat in my stomach awhile, I had second thoughts about even returning in a moment of desperation.
I’m not sure who voted Cozzoli’s the best pizza in Austin back in 1981, or, for that matter, any time thereafter. Granted this was only my second Austin pizza-eating experience, but I just can’t imagine anything could top Home Slice.
PIZZA SNOB RATING **1/2 Perhaps Not a Total Waste
704 Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701