Russo’s Spins Off Fixed-Price Pizza-Tasting Restaurant in Tomball
Russo’s New York Pizzeria & Italian Kitchen, which has roots in a Galveston seawall restaurant that owner Anthony Russo’s parents opened in 1978 and now has multiple locations not just in Houston, but also overseas, is starting to grow a different type of restaurant. The company has opened the first location of “pizza tasting room” Olio & Farina at 24230 Kuykendahl in Tomball (near Spring and just south of The Woodlands).
Guillermo Medellin runs Olio & Farina, as well as the Russo’s New York Pizzeria locations in The Woodlands and Conroe. “We want Olio & Farina to be a place where people can have great food and a social dining experience. We are looking to evolve the pizza concept beyond what the normal market has, and that will set us apart as something different,” he said via press release.
There are a few differentiators between Russo’s and Olio & Farina, and the most important one — especially this year, when dining-out costs are up an average of 7.7% nationally — might be the family-friendly flat-fee price structure. The cost is $24.95 per adult (before beverage, tax and gratuity). Children who are under age 3 are free, and kids who are 3 to 12 cost $14.95. Because of the price structure, a rule typically reserved for buffets applies: no taking home leftovers.
For the adults, the flat fee covers a starter and all-you-can-eat pizza slices. These are served churrascaria-style; servers come by your table with different types of pizza on a platter so you can choose what you want. There are 17 different kinds of the “hand-stretched, made-from-scratch Romo-style pizzas”, and most topping combinations are more upscale than typical pizza places. A few selections are Hummus Mediterranean with spicy hummus spread, red onion, kalamata olives, spinach, cherry tomato and mozzarella cheese; Broccoli Rabe & Housemade Sausage with Sicilian extra virgin olive oil and mozzarella cheese; and Fig & Pig with Prosciutto di Parma, arugula, basil, fig spread, extra virgin olive oil, Wisconsin mozzarella and balsamic glaze.
The appetizer choices are Chef Made Tomato Basil Soup, Truffle Mushroom Arancini Lemon Arugula Salad and Beef Meatball. The desserts are also pizzas, which aren’t included in the price. The selections are Mascarpone & Berries, Apple Pie and S’mores. Diners can also add pasta platters for $10 per person. The choices are Spaghetti Carbonara, Truffle Mushroom Campanelle, and Penne alla Vodka.
Olio & Farina’s bar program offers cocktails, beer and wine. A few of the mixed-drink choices are the Italian Margarita with tequila, Cointreau, simple syrup and lime juice, topped with amaretto and served in a sugar-rimmed glass and Expresso Chocolate Martini (yes, this is how it’s spelled on the drink list) made with vodka, Baileys Irish Cream, espresso and Godiva Dark Chocolate liqueur, and garnished with shaved chocolate chips.
The wine program features $9 house wines by the glass (mostly from Mondavi). The rest of the wine list is also heavily Californian, with some Italian wines thrown in for good measure, such as Tasca Tenuta Regaleali Nero D’avola Lamuri from Sicily and Ruffino Lumina Delle Venezie Pinot Grigio. (“Delle Venezie” refers to the region comprised of Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino.)
The beer program also leans toward crowd-pleasing but throws in a few off-the-beaten-path selections, such as Austin Eastciders’ Dry Cider, Texas Leaguer Brewing Company’s Czech Swing and Black Page Brewery’s Houston Hades.
Olio & Farina’s hours are Sunday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. For more information, visit the website or call (832) 639-6503.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.