(For those who have not met her, Maritza is also a chef, most recently working under Michael Kramer at Voice.)
We've lived in the Woodlands for about five years now, and have watched the restaurant here scene steadily grow and improve. No longer just a sleepy little suburb, the 80,000+ residents of the Woodlands can enjoy dining out at some of the best restaurants in the Houston area. From high-end establishments like Tesars and Jasper's, to small mom-and-pop restaurants like Eden Cafe, Capri, and Mel's, the Woodlands area has something for everyone.
One particular area of interest is pizza. Houston isn't a great pizza town (Sorry, Star Pizza) and many folks believe the best pizza can be found in the suburbs, particularly Sugar Land and the Woodlands. You'll find great local spots like Brother's Pizza and Pizza Tonight, and bigger chains like Russo's and the stellar Grimaldi's (from Brooklyn.)
We'd been hearing good things about a small pizza place that had quietly opened two locations in the Woodlands. When one of our trusted sources said that the pizza was worth trying, we headed out to investigate.
We drove west from our central Woodlands headquarters to the Sterling Ridge location of Gozzetti's. Located in the well-hidden Marcel Crossing Shopping Center, Gozzetti's is a small, tidy spot with both indoor and outdoor seating. We were immediately greeted by the gregarious staff, and we learned a little about their story.
Gozzetti's is owned by two families who moved to the Woodlands from New Jersey. Unable to find the kind of pizza they were accustomed to in their home state, they decided to make their own, using ingredients imported from the East Coast.
Gozzetti's formula begins with a thin, hand-tossed crust that's made in-house. And these crusts are big - a large at Gozzetti's is 24". (That's not a typo). Next is the specially blended sauce, spread sparingly, as they do on the east coast. Above that are a mixture of imported (from NJ) cheeses, and the meat and veggie toppings.
The result goes into a conventional conveyor oven. And what comes out is the reason we're here. From this unremarkable oven emerges a pizza that's among the best in the Houston area - thin, crunchy/chewy, and loaded with flavor. Gozzetti's gets the foundation right - the thin, tasty crust, the right amount of tangy sauce, and a rich, gooey cheese layer supports the top quality toppings. We sampled the traditional pepperoni (large diameter, similar to what they use at Ciao Bello) and the untraditional bacon and pineapple. All were delicious.
We've often bemoaned the lack of great pizza in Houston. Thanks to places like Gozzetti's and Grimaldi's, you don't have to go far to find great pizza in the Woodlands. And for you inside-the-loop folks, it's a nice drive out on a sunny day.
8000 McBeth Way, #170
The Woodlands, Texas 77381
25919 I45 North, Suite A
The Woodlands, Texas 77380
Ever since we moved to the Woodlands half a decade ago, we've frequented Jasper's, the Market Street home of Kent Rathbun's "Upscale Backyard Cuisine". A recent glorious Saturday morning had us craving brunch, so we headed over to Jasper's, and snagged a spot on the shaded patio. We'd not been in a while, and the patio was just as inviting as we had remembered. The picture-perfect spring weather didn't hurt, either.
We were in the mood for French Toast, and Jasper's Vanilla French Toast sounded superb, complete with Carmelized Honey-Banana Syrup and Applewood Smoked Bacon. So we ordered, and after a slightly longer than expected wait, our plate arrived.
So this is a brunch entree at Jasper's? One tiny slice of bacon? Two pieces of toast, cut in half, one slightly burned and one undercooked? I suppose the smattering of fresh berries was supposed to make up for the miserly portions. It didn't.
Honestly, this plate makes me wonder about what's going on in the kitchen. We understand that cost control is an important part of designing a menu, but one skimpy half-length slice of bacon? Two pieces of toast? Heck, even IHOP is more generous, and if your upscale brunch falls short in a comparison to IHOP, you have serious problems.
We grudgingly finished our order (the good housemade syrup disguised the burnt flavor of the toast fairly well) but were still quite hungry. So we decided to order something else; in this case, Jasper's Potato-Leek Hashbrowns.
What arrived were two lightly browned potato discs, with some leek and scallion mixed with the potato. Nice presentation, but it resulted in one crucial problem: Once you get away from the crust, the hash browns aren't brown at all, and in this case they were nearly uncooked and mushy. We left most of them on our plate.
We've been big fans of Jasper's since they opened in the Woodlands, but this brunch confirmed rumors we'd been hearing about the product slipping. Hopefully Chef Rathbun will visit from Dallas and straighten things out at his Woodlands location, especially now that he's got serious competition from Tesars across the street. Tesars' brunch is nothing short of spectacular, miles ahead of Jasper's lukewarm effort.