Grimaldi's in the Woodlands

November 16, 2009
Update: Our second visit to Grimaldi's was a much better experience.

We've searched for years for superlative pizza in Houston. Sure, we have some decent places, but we've always hoped Houston would get a world-class pizza joint.

We'd been hearing great buzz about the Brooklyn import, Grimaldi's, which opened recently in Sugar Land. We'd not been down to try it, but we had been tracking the news about a second location in the Woodlands, which is our neighborhood. When we heard that they'd finally opened, we were anxious to find out what the noise was all about.

Grimaldi's is located in the scenic Woodlands Waterway area, right across the street from the popular Goose's Acre pub. It's a charming, two level restaurant, with a bar, small dining room, and charming sidewalk seating area upstairs. Downstairs is the oft-mentioned coal-fired oven, a bigger dining area, and more outdoor seating. The feel is classic NYC pizza joint, with lots of black-and-white photos of the Big Apple adorning the walls.

We grabbed a table on an early Saturday afternoon, and perused the menu. Pizza is clearly in the forefront here; the only entrees were pizza and calzone. Three versions are offered; classic marinara, white pizza with garlic, and a pesto option. We opted to try our benchmark: An extra-large marinara with pepperoni. Nothing fancy, just Grimaldi's take on the most popular pizza in America.

We also started with a small Caesar salad, which was plenty for the table. The caesar was mild but tasty; the romaine lettuce had a nice snap to it, and was very fresh. We'd have preferred more bite to the dressing, but we remembered that we weren't here for the salad.

After about 15 minutes, the pizza appeared. Beautifully cooked and resplendent with the bubbles that are a hallmark of a pizza cooked at high temperature, we savored the moment and dug into our first slice.

Wow. Disappointment.

What we tasted was one of the blandest pizzas we'd had in a long time. The marinara was barely to be found, and the cheese was extremely mild. The pepperoni was very greasy (it was running down our wrists as we ate) and almost flavorless. The high point was clearly the crust, a thin, crunchy/chewy creation, hand tossed, cooked perfectly and begging for some better toppings.

Perhaps we caught them on a bad day; perhaps our expectations were too high. But our pizza was nothing special; there are three places in the Woodlands that we enjoy more. We'll give them another visit, because we find it hard to believe that our fellow foodies would have raved as they have over pizza like this.

Bottom line: Our search continues for world-class pizza in Houston. Maybe Grimaldi's will deliver next time.

Grimaldi's. 20 Waterway Ave. The Woodlands, TX 77380. 281-465-3500

Grimaldi's Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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