One of the most popular restaurant types in The Woodlands - and possibly even southeast Texas - is Tex-Mex, and we're not talking Taco Bell here or even La Bikina which is more authentic Mexican food. Trailing ever so slightly yet gaining momentum is the Pizza restaurant; another high profit restaurant business that remains a mainstay celebratory dinners and food delivery fanatics. With at least a dozen pizza restaurant competitors, not including a plethora of pizza delivery options, Zazza Pizza Cafe has their work cut out (or should we say sliced) for them.
When we entered Zazza it was prime dinner time, 6:30 in the evening. The restaurant appeared about half-full, and the casual seating area was occupied with couples and families. We approached the counter and were given a friendly greeting, told that we could look over the menu at the counter and order, or take a menu to a table to discuss our options and return to the counter when we were ready. Currently, Zazza Pizza Cafe is BYOB, and similar to Crust Pizza, Pei Wei, and a few others, diners order at the counter, have their dishes delivered to their table, and self-serve their own drinks.
Offering the usual assortment of pizzas, Zazza Pizza Cafe has added their own special twist to at a least a few of them. The Hawaiian for example, which usually just has pineapple and ham or Canadian bacon, at Zazza is known as the Tropicana and features roasted cashews and sun-dried cranberries along with white and yellow cheeses. They also offer a wheat crust and a gluten free crust options for all of their pizzas. There is but one choice listed for the crust style at Zazza Pizza Cafe, so you won't find any stuffed crust, or extra thick / pan pizza style of crust, just a simple thin crust and for many, that's the only way to make a pizza. Zazza's menu also consists of an assortment of baked sandwiches, a selection of pasta dishes, a variety of salads, and a few desserts. On this, our first excursion to Zazza's, we sampled a pizza as well as the baked Ziti.
He Said - For the pizza selection we a medium Supreme ($14) and as I frequently do, we exchanged pineapple in place of the mushrooms. The thin crust was very tasty and almost cracker crisp. Had the pizza cooked just another 30 to 60 seconds I think it would have come out nearly perfect. The portions and proportions of each topping was excellent allowing for a more complete flavor profile in each successive bite. Along with the thin crust, was a thin layer of sauce, just enough to keep it interesting and not so much as to soak the crust. Overall, I would give the pizza a rating of 7.5 out of 10 and will happily go back for more at a future date. Maybe they will add a spicy sausage to the menu which would kick it up a notch for me.
Zazza Pizza opened in May of 2016 in the new Marcel Crossing Shopping Center that has seen its own issues during the build out and even now with issues getting spaces leased, due to ongoing utility construction issues. They occupy a space on the corner of FM 1488 and Carriage Hills Boulevard, at the entrance to Jacob's Reserve at Carriage Hills. Technically in Conroe, the residential community is much closer to Village of Alden Bridge in The Woodlands. When completed, the mixed-use center will have a number of dining establishments in it, including a Vietnamese Noodle House, Zamani, a Mediterranean cafe, and at least two other food establishments; possibilities include 3 Olives (an Italian restaurant) and Southern Maid Donuts, among others.
The serving size of the baked Ziti ($9) was ample, with lots of melted mozzarella cheese and pasta, and a rather sweet tasting sauce which could stand to have a little more meat added to it. Noticeably missing from the dish was the commonly included ricotta cheese found in most baked Ziti dishes, but to each their own. The pasta was interesting in that its texture was as though it was all cooked at the same time; some of the noodles being more done than others ranging from al dente to crispy/under-cooked, but that was more likely due to having been finished in the pizza oven. We had almost placed an order for some garlic bread but as the baked Ziti comes with it, we chose not to. Good thing too, because the garlic bread was almost not toasted all, barely warm, and overly disappointing.
One of the recent advents in restaurants is the open kitchen area and the kitchen at Zazza is relatively open, making it somewhat easy to observe the staff as they prepare dishes. After all these years of posting the Montgomery County Environmental Health Services Inspection Reports, I've gotten to where I can't help but watch when the opportunity arises. And I don't want to nit-pick, but visors are not hair restraints, employee drink cups don't belong on the cutting table, and hand washing needs to be happening much more often, especially when you've left and returned to the kitchen area to refill your drink cup. Now the crew is young, and the establishment is new, but rules are rules and watching these things go on in front of me had me uneasy.** Overall the experience was what one might call "fair to middlin'." The dining and review team at The Woodlands Restaurant Reviews has sampled a number of Italian and/or Pizza Restaurants and just like in any competition, there are winners and there are losers. For the immediate area, Zazza Pizza Cafe is a great choice, and as they continue to establish themselves, will likely do well. We expect that they will become quite popular among the residents in the Carriage Hills subdivision and surrounding apartment complexes looking for better alternatives to the "big three" delivery chains and of course, the ever-popular Tex-Mex.
** Update 9/16/16 - It seems the Health Service Inspectors observed a lot more than we did when they were next in, and it's no wonder I thought the staff at Zazza looked inexperienced and untrained; according to the report, there were no Certified Food Managers employed by the restaurant.
Brio Tuscan Grill
Crust Pizza Panther Creek
Crust Pizza Company
Crust Pizza Alden Bridge
Luca & Leonardo
Mama Mia Italian
RC's New York Pizza
Russo's New York Pizza
Pizza in The Woodlands
Russo's New York Pizza
Via Emilia Due
Zazza Pizza Cafe