Note: First Looks give previews of new drinks and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with bars and restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
Pieous has one of those inspiring origin stories that any food loving office worker loves to fantasize about. Last year, Joshua Kaner, a CPA and music attorney, finally hung up his calculator. Going with his gut, he purchased an old BBQ joint on W 290 with his wife, Paige. "She promised me that if she could have one more baby, I could open a restaurant," Kaner divulged.
So here they are today, proud proprietors of their very own one-month-old pizzeria. Paige, also an attorney, is now a mother of three. The couple spent 7 months gutting the space and building the restaurant from scratch. Kaner built as much with his own hands as possible, from the floors and tables, to a gleaming bar-top that borders the wood-fired pizza oven. The exterior was intentionally kept in its original "shabby" condition. In contrast, the interior's bright white tiles and chalkboard-coated walls, decorated with colorful messages, is designed to be refreshing and homey. "When people walk in the door, they're surprised and will tell others by word of mouth," Kaner explained.
His passion is evident on the walls, from a large chalk mural that says "Follow Your Passion" to smaller pieces that inform diners that the mozzarella is made in house. "I'm a picky bastard. I've eaten in the best places and have lived in New York and L.A., and I don't like food from many places," he said while pointing to his establishment's name. "To be pious means to be devoted. Pieous Is a play on that word because for me, food is religion."
Kaner's doughs are made with a sourdough starter that he's kept thriving for 12 years. Using the starter, he experimented with different recipes and observed master pizza makers' techniques until he discovered his ideal thin crust dough. He says work has paid off, hitting his goal of a Neapolitan-style crust with a crisp bottom, blistered edges, and just the right resistance or "pull."
The hand-kneaded dough gets a long rise, in order to develop enough flavor for it to stand on its own. In fact, he bakes loaves of sourdough for his house-smoked pastrami and handmade mozzarella plates. Slow smoked brisket is his way of honoring a Texan tradition.
A selection of 13 pies range from Neapolitan classics to less traditional combinations, like a bacon marmalade, gorgonzola, and arugula pie.
When asked about the quality, Josh explained, "I am a pizza snob but I like all sorts of pizzas. I think ours is the best in Austin. I don't want to make enemies but ours blows many others out of the water." That's a claim that he's standing behind, and expects diners to judge for themselves.
Apart from pizzas, Pieous also serves dessert pies, such as pecan and blueberry.