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Sep 14, 2006 03:39 AM

Salvation Pizza [AUS]

Salvation Pizza is a new pizza joint on 34th St. between Lamar & Guadalupe. I think the owners are from Connecticut and they seem to know what they're doing. The crust is really good. It's thin, crisp, and chewy. We got the white pizza with mozzarella (not fresh, unfortunately), garlic, basil, and roma tomatoes. This pizza isn't perfect by any means, but it is one of the best I've had in Austin. I think it's much better than Home Slice, for instance, and on par with but different from the pizza at Enoteca Vespaio.

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  1. It's in the old Starlite location.

    How is it different from Vespaio's pizzas? Thicker?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Kent Wang

      It's been over 6 months since I had Vespaio pizza, so I might be remembering wrong. But Salvation's crust contains cornmeal and I think it's is slightly thicker, especially towards the edge. This makes it a little stiffer. If you pick it up by the crust, the point of the slice doesn't droop.

    2. Excellent news! Thanks!

      1. I’ve had pretty bad pizza experiences in Austin, except for the pizza at Vespaio:

        On the pizza at Home Slice, Saccone’s, and Vespaio, December 2005

        Last pizza I had at Vespaio, July 2006

        So, thanks, Brian, for the tip about Salvation Pizza. When hungry visitors needed late-night food last weekend, we checked it out. We ordered a pepperoni pizza and a margherita pizza. I thought it was a very good thin-crust pizza, of the mainstream-U.S. style. In other words, it was not unlike the thin-crust pizzas offered at chains or casual pizza joints. By this I don’t mean to suggest that it was bad. I do want to suggest what it was not.

        It was not Neapolitan-style pizza, as their menu claims. The pizza I got when I ordered a margherita, the Neapolitan classic, was not a margherita at all. A margherita should have chunks of fresh mozzarella, along with sparingly applied tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, a touch of garlic, and a few fresh basil leaves, all on a crisp but chewy crust that's been topped with salt and olive oil. [If I'd remembered that the OP pointed out the lack of fresh mozzarella, I wouldn’t have ordered this.] Salvation gave me a "margherita" that was instead a white pizza, topped without tomatoes or sauce but with tons of shredded cheese and minced garlic. This seems to be the same pizza Brian ordered, minus the Roma tomatoes. Salvation did use leaves of fresh basil, but they baked them in the pizza oven. When I scraped off all the garlic on one slice, it had no flavor. So much for working around this issue by trying to special-order a margherita done right (use some sauce with just a little garlic, add less cheese, and don’t bake the basil). The cheese, tomatoes or sauce, and crust have to be delicious enough to stand on their own for a real margherita to shine.

        Salvation’s pizza wasn’t New-York-style, either. The cornmeal in the crust is a dead giveaway. It’s just a shortcut to crispness. Worse, it’s something you’d find on the “Brooklyn-style” pizza from Domino’s.

        I understand what Brian means about Salvation’s pizza being texturally similar to the pizza at Vespaio. Vespaio uses much higher-quality toppings and ingredients, though, and their crust to me seems crispier, with more air bubbles. Unfortunately, the last time I had Vespaio’s pizza, they’d started to pile on the cheese, and the crust had gotten thinner and crunchier. In my opinion, this was not an improvement. I'm hoping it was just a fluke.

        Salvation’s crust was pale, thin, and rigid, as Brian noted. I couldn’t really taste the wheat or any other discernible flavor. The crust did taste like oil, though, since it seemed to be brushed with it. While the pie wasn’t charred, as it would be if cooked in a really hot wood- or coal-burning oven, it was stiff without being crispy. I barely registered the inoffensive sauce, since they applied it sparingly on the pepperoni pizza and left it off the margherita. I found a tomato peel on one slice, suggesting that they use crushed tomatoes. That’s a good sign. I don’t think the tomatoes were of the very best quality, and they weren’t noticeably seasoned with salt or oregano. One thing the sauce was not: sweet. The grated cheese was melted all over the pie, and as noted above, it definitely wasn’t fresh mozzarella.

        The pizza was, however, fairly well balanced. The crust and the sauce were good enough for the less-than-ideal cheese and not-exactly-world-class toppings. No one ingredient dominated, and the pie wasn’t too greasy, too cheesy, too sweet, or too saucy. Like I said, this was an enjoyable pizza, as long as you’re not looking for New-York- or Neapolitan-style. It’s a very good pizza for Austin, and I appreciated the suggestion.

        A couple of months ago I finally tried Brick Oven on 35th. They misinterpreted margherita pizza in the same way that Salvation did, and I thought their sausage pizza was just mediocre. While their pizza crust was charred, it wasn't particularly good. Their cheese was better than Salvation’s, if I recall correctly. My real issue with Brick Oven's pizza was their overly sweet tomato sauce. The pizza may have been blander without it, but sugar is not a cure-all for lack of flavor. I threw out the leftovers rather than face them a second time.

        3 Replies
        1. re: MPH

          I don't understand why pizza places in Austin refuse to at least offer fresh mozarella. I once asked the owner of the Brick Oven on 35th why they didn't offer it and he said he didn't think people in Austin would order it, which I find hard to believe.

          Regarding cornmeal, I'm not a big fan of that trick either. But I have to say that Totonno's, considered by some (not me) to be the best pizza in Brooklyn, uses cornmeal in their crust. The worst cornmeal offender of all is Two Boots Pizza in New York -- blech. But that's for another board.

          1. re: Brian Lindauer

            I don't buy it, either. The choice not to use fresh mozzarella at Brick Oven and other local pizzerias probably has more to do with convenience and higher profit margins than deference to their customers’ palates. I’ve noticed the scarce supply of hand-pulled fresh mozzarella in town.

            You and I share similar tastes in pizza. Totonno's wasn't my favorite, either, and the memory of the cornmeal crusts at Two Boots still makes me shudder. Why mess with the classic all-flour crust? If cornmeal is your secret weapon, then you’re not doing it right.

            We chowhounds need to separate the wheat from the chaff (and the cornmeal). I hope you’ll keep the Austin pizza tips coming!

            1. re: Brian Lindauer

              i realize this is totally out of left field...but the other day i wandered into slices and ices on guadalupe and got two slices of a delicious real margherita with fresh mozzarella and basil added after the fact.

          2. I like Southside Flying Pizza, on South Congress near Live Oak. I would be interested to hear some expert commentary on this place. I don't know New York from New Braunfels, and have never in my life thrown away leftover pizza.

            1 Reply
            1. re: travisleroy

              I’ll admit that throwing away mediocre pizza leftovers is an expensive habit, travisleroy, especially given how much bad pizza there is to be had in any particular town! But like many chowhounds, I hate to eat anything that’s not delicious.

              I was initially put off by comments on chowhound saying that Southside Flying Pizza wasn't as good as Home Slice. As someone who doesn't like Home Slice, I had tentatively concluded that Southside wasn’t likely to offer my kind of pie.

              Based on your recommendation, though, I'll check it out soon. Thanks for the tip.


            2. The only pizza I remember actually throwing away was Mr. Gatti's ((shudder)).

              I'd like to try Southside.

              1 Reply
              1. re: nypb

                We tried Southside last night, and really liked it. Lots of toppings that tasted very fresh, all for a reasonable price in a comfortable dining area. We weren't impressed with Home Slice. We like the Trentino (prosciutto and goat cheese) at Brick Oven on 35th and Saccone's for Jersey-style (where my husband is from). I also must confess to being a closet Conan's deep dish whole wheat pie lover -- a college staple, way back when.