Eastside Pie-Society

It’s More Than a Pizzeria,
It’s a State of Mind.

Words by Ben Haguewood  Photos by Ashley Haguewood

East Austin isn’t just a place for eclecticism and relentless change, but one where good ideas take hold, and Eastsiders have a reputation for forming traditions all their own. Whatever the original motivation, each of the pizzerias in east Austin makes something they love and believe in, and they have had to be innovative to do it:  in their location and workspace, in their pizza style and product sourcing, and in finding something that no one else is doing. Each of these eastside pizzerias continues to craft some of the most unique flavors in town that leave their patrons coming back for more.


East Side Pies

When co-founders Michael Freid and Noah Polk stepped into the low, cinder-block building at 1401 Rosewood, it smelled of fryer grease that coated the walls, courtesy of the prior occupant. Now that same 250 sq. ft. space daily pumps out hundreds of pies topped with some of the most eclectic sauces and toppings of any pizzeria in Austin.

The thin but pliable crust is the perfect platform for the range of sauces, from classic red, pesto, tomatillo, and more. The Spinach Curry Sauce, a throwback to Polk’s time bartending at an Indian restaurant, satisfies the hungry and the curious. The YYZ adds Jerk chick, jalapeños, and red onions for a truly original synthesis of flavors that are ultimately pure Austin.

East Side Pies now has locations on Airport and Anderson and is expanding its Rosewood location to take over the whole building. But asked if that means they’ll have to change the name, Freid laughs, “No…we’re always east of something.” {read more}


Bufalina

Bufalina makes the kind of pizza you just have to tell other people about. The restaurant takes its name from one of the essential ingredients to excellent pizza:  buffalo mozzarella, large slices of which cover the base of their pizzas and spread out in the 900 degree wood-fired oven the restaurant uses to cook them. The result is the classic Neapolitan-style pizza, smoky fire-kissed crust and excellent ingredients perfectly melded together. Bufalina’s Fresca is a perfect choice for something special but also simple, especially for blazing Austin summers. The pizza perfectly balances the simplicity of piquant prosciutto and arugula with the soft Buffalo mozzarella and shaves of sharp Grana Padano cheese—finished with a fresh squeeze of lemon. It’s this combination of simplicity with perfect execution that keeps this style of pizza alive and people talking about this Austin pizzeria. {see more}


Li’l Nonna’s

Austin can always use a good New York style pizza shop, but Li’l Nonna’s trailer at the Buzzmill is unique in its catering to vegetarian and vegan Austinites who still crave a good pie. The kitchen can turn out a mean Margherita (with regular mozzarella and pecorino if you wish), but move on down the menu, and you’ll find many pizzeria favorites topped with house-made vegan mozzarella, beeteroni slices, seitan Italian sausage in addition to a slew of vegetable toppings. The Supreme comes with classic San Marzano tomato sauce and is topped with black olives, sweet red bell peppers, mushrooms, shallots, and sprinkled with smoked tempeh. At first it creeps up on you, the smokiness and texture of the tempeh reminiscent of a traditional meat topping you can’t quite put your finger on, and if they didn’t tell you, you might not notice. {read more}


Skylark Lounge

Skylark has been bringing Austinites together for years—typically over their love of Blues music, cheap drinks, and good vibes. Don’t be surprised though, if someone offers to meet you there for a pizza. Since taking over the space in 2013, owners Johnny and Mary La Touf have struck a good balance of keeping the best the iconic east Austin bar had to offer and making just the right adjustments that create a dive-bar as comfortable as your living room, including the food options. The pies are truly meals unto themselves, and with hearty offerings like the Chicken, Rosemary, and Garlic Pizza—loaded with marinated chunks of chicken, melding with whole cloves of garlic and caramelized onions, it’s much more than bar snacks. Vegetarians are welcome too, and fresh veggies—from spinach to asparagus—are piled so high you almost wonder if the crispy thin crust will support their heft. You’ll go for the music and longnecks, but you’ll stay for the pizza. The welcome preservation of this east Austin jewel, including its elevated pizza menu by Ladybird’s Austin Kitchen, proves it’s possible to be new but not trendy, to honor the past by keeping the best of it. {read more}


Unit D Pizzeria

Unit D’s menu is a study in contrasts. It stands out by combining the exacting standards and ingredients of the trademarked recipe that made Neapolitan-style pizza world famous, with the energy and creativity you’d expect from a chef at a top restaurant more in the fine-dining category. If you’ve had a classic Naples pie, Unit D’s crust will be familiar—thin and golden brown from the wood-fired oven—but the similarities mostly end there. The Bacon Apple Pizza is emblematic of the Unit D’s approach, an unorthodox combination of ingredients that immediately makes sense when you first take a bite: salty bacon paired with diced sweet and tart apple, candied pecan up next to a sharp hit of goat cheese, a hint of spiciness from the small medallions of Fresno peppers, all over the creamy white sauce and finished with a drizzle of spiced honey. As with most great dishes, balance is key, and while it’s not a combination you probably would have thought of, it’s one you won’t soon forget. It’s hard to revolutionize something as classic as Neapolitan Pizza, but Unit D’s creative, yet subtle, ingredient combinations are doing what Austinites do best, innovate while still loving the classics. {read more}


Via 313

Before Via 313 pulled up a custom pizza trailer on heavily foot-trafficked East 6th, Eastsiders had no idea what they were missing: Detroit-Style Pizza. You’ll immediately notice the rectangular pieces, but take a bite and the differences abound. There’s no reason to not start with The Detroiter. When it arrives, you’ll see small natural casing pepperoni slices curled into crisp pepperoni cups dotting the surface, and dollops of spicy, herbaceous deep-red sauce on the surface. Hiding beneath the surface is a layer of smoked pepperoni. The shredded mozzarella that spreads to each corner of the metal cook-pan forms a crisp, cheese border around the edge. One bite, and it all makes sense. This is exactly what you want after a long night out; though now that you’ve had it, the craving for this regional favorite that’s migrated south can hit you any time. {read more}


Southside Flying Pizza

You’ll never get bored with options at Southside Flying Pizza. The Austin pizza joint opened its third location on East Cesar Chavez in 2015 and has quickly become part of the neighborhood. Pick up a pie on your way home, or sit and have one of their daily lunch specials. In fact, plan to stick around because this fall, they’ll add an old-school arcade room. The classic pizzeria setting feels familiar, but the menu is updated with hand-tossed, scratch-made dough and fresh toppings, and the combinations are pure Austin. From classic flavors to signature pies like The Eastsider (Pepperoni, Canadian Bacon, Sausage, Black Olives, Serrano Peppers, and Pineapple), or The ACL (bacon, spinach, garlic, and tomatoes) and the intimidating Double Dragon—a combination of prosciutto, beef, and chicken, finished with jalapenos and Cholula hot sauce, the possibilities are endless. {read more}


King Bee Lounge

Nightlife has come to 12th and Chicon. While the cluster of bars that fill the storefronts of this intersection get most of the attention, what’s a late night out without good late-night food? If you’re hopping from bar to bar and need a sobering bite, King Bee is ideal. Take a seat at one of the long antique wooden tables and check out its selection of pizzas prepared with fresh ingredients and house-made dough. It goes without saying they’re a great accompaniment to the drink list whether you’re after a signature cocktail, frozen margarita, or a cold beer. Their Bee Supreme is not your average take-out pizza. It has all the gooeyness you crave, but with better crust and some elevated ingredients thrown into the mix. In addition to the typical pepperoni, green peppers, and mushrooms, it has tangy green olives and mounds of ricotta dotting the pie, reminding you of late night pizza runs, only much tastier. {see more}


Aviator Pizza & Brew Co.

Anyone who’s heard of Elgin, Texas probably knows it for its sausage, but as Austin moves further east, it’s taking its taste for inventive pizza recipes and craft beer with it. When Aviator opened three years ago, owner John McElroy’s vision was to be the first restaurant to serve craft beer and pizza in this small but bustling downtown. Pizza runs in the family, and John helped his brothers open ten pizzerias between the two of them before opening his own. Their menu is plentiful, and every pie shows off the hand-tossed family dough recipe. The Flying Garlic Pizza is a great place to start, topped with a garlic-butter base, spinach, whole roasted garlic cloves, chicken, and feta cheese. The craft beer selection includes 15 Texas brews, and soon Aviator will brew its own. {read more}

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