If you don't follow the comings and goings of coal-oven pizzerias around the country—and, really, if you're halfway normal, why would you?—then you may not know there are other Grimaldi's outside the New York City area.
Sure, you might know about the Hoboken Grimaldi's, but, wait ... there's one in Texas? Say wha?
Yes, there are a handful in Texas and the Southwest, all (or most) rocking coal ovens, from what I can tell. Also, from what I can piece together, they are loosely affiliated with the original only in that a different set of owners licensed the name (sort of like the East Harlem Patsy's and the mini-chain Patsy's).
Sounds good, right? Pioneers extending the manifest destiny of coal-oven supremacy throughout the mild West.
Houston, We Have a Problem
But Houston Press food writer Robb Walsh hits upon a busted wheel in this wagon train of pizza deliciousness—the folks in Houston don't like "burnt" pizza.
A coal-fired pizza oven operates at extremely high temperatures. It cooks the pizza very quickly and gives it a slightly smoky flavor. If you make a pizza crust of an average thickness, the hot floor of the brick oven will char the bottom of the crust by the time the pizza is completely cooked. Coal oven pizza aficionados love the char--they savor the crunchy blackened crust the same way Texas barbecue lovers treasure the crispy burnt ends of a brisket.
Unfortunately, Texans weren't raised on coal oven pizza and they see do not see the allure of a "burnt" pizza. And so the whole coal-fired brick oven pizza phenomenon is kind of a joke in Houston.
Apparently, all the Grimaldi's in Arizona and the ones in Texas have learned the hard way that customers send back the "burnt" pizzas and have been cooking their crusts to a dull blond ever since.