Long story short: Pizzeria Solario is not just about pizza, and, as Martha Stewart would say, “it’s a good thing.”
It’s a good thing because the pizza selection, given the name of the restaurant, should be uniformly solid with regards to flavor and construction. Unfortunately, Solario’s pies are all over the quality spectrum. I was intrigued but ultimately by the pistachio, whose toppings (pistachios, caramelized onions, rosemary, and fontina) were disproportionate in combination such that the flavors were imbalanced; some bites were all cheese and rosemary, others just onions. The bland white sauce base didn’t much help either. The quatro formagi pie, however, boasted wonderful combination of sweet, nutty, and salty notes from the four-cheese blend; a wonderful example of how simple ingredients can yield complex tastes.
Another win was Solario’s eggplant crab cakes, large mounds of lump meat lightly sauteed and dressed in a perfectly prepared hollandaise. Add a squeeze from the accompanying lemon wedge and you have refreshing, satisfying seafood secondi. Fair but not fantastic fare came then in the form of the ragu bolognese, whose terrific house-made pasta was overshadowed by an over-salted sauce.
What’s particularly disheartening about the inconsistency of Solario’s food is that it’s not cheap. Note, by “not cheap,” I do not mean “expensive” as I am cognizant of the price of real estate in its neighborhood as well as the overhead of the high quality “locale [sic] and imported ingredients from other parts of the world.” $13 for a pizza that is very good is okay but $15 for a lackluster pizza is pretty annoying.
What can you love about Solario without qualification? The artsy features and open layout of the interior dining room, whose semi-open kitchen engenders an active, pleasantly chaotic atmosphere. Contrast this feel with the lovely outdoor seating area with umbrella tables, sure to become even more popular as the evenings cool, and you have complementary eating areas suitable for scattered families with young children, couples on date nights, and large groups looking for some pre- or post-bar hopping fuel. The front of house service is also very friendly and accommodating; the servers were jovial and one cook even kindly removed the top of a glass case immediately when he saw me struggling to get a good picture angle. However, their enthusiasm didn’t at least in one notable instance translate into results. When placing a takeout order, my sole request (sauce on the side) was not honored; the employee who delivered the order apologized sheepishly, saying, “I told them…”
Despite all my major and minor quibbles, I do believe Pizzeria Solario shows promise and perhaps if they can iron out the kinks sooner rather than later they will able to establish themselves as a long-term player in the Houston pizza and pasta game.