Former Resident Brings Zeal for Pizza to New Houston Restaurant
Zalat Pizza, which owns 16 locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, is opening its first Houston restaurant on Monday, December 6 at 510 Gray in Midtown. The pizzeria’s founder, Khanh Nguyen, who grew up in the Bayou City and graduated from the University of Houston, is expecting that his hometown’s food-savvy residents will embrace the brand. “I know from growing up in Houston that Houstonians appreciate great food and that’s exactly what we’re bringing to the city. We are a no-frills brand that focuses on creating delicious, unique, high-quality pizzas for our customers,” he said via press release.
Nguyen got into the casual Italian food game in 2015 when he saw an opportunity to open the first Zalat Pizza across the street from his first restaurant, a Vietnamese eatery.
Despite being a chain, the company makes all of its pizzas from scratch — even the dough. Other ingredients include all-beef pepperoni, oven-roasted Roma tomatoes and fresh basil. One interesting claim the chain makes is that it “spends more money on cheese than it does on rent each month.” Nguyen is so intent on promoting the quality of Zalat’s pizzas that staff members are called “Zealots” and a sign with the definition of the word “zealot” hangs in every store. This humorous approach to corporate culture even goes a step farther. Upon their first-year anniversary, an employee can get a Zealot tattoo at the company’s expense. More significantly: that’s also when they become eligible for equity stakes, and the company also offers a 401(k) plan and medical benefits.
The 100% beef pepperoni is the start of the Pepperoni Masterclass pizza, which gets additional seasoning from chopped garlic, oregano and black pepper. Other Zalat Pizza topping combinations include Nashville Hot Chicken & Pickles, Pho Shizzle, Elote, Loaded Notato and Pineapple Express. Unlike some pizza joints, Zalat Pizza encourages patrons to dip their slices into creamy dressing. There’s even a signature sauce: the SriRANCHaTM — a combination of Sriracha and ranch.
The crust is the foundation of a good pizza. Zalat’s goal is to repeatedly create a crust that balances chewiness and crispness. The stores use deck ovens to help achieve that goal, and each pizza is supposedly inspected by a staff member who then signs the box if it passes the quality check. If the pizza doesn’t pass, it’s remade.
Another unique factor is that Zalat Pizza is open until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays, so that it can cater to the weekend bar-hopping crowd. There’s likely to be no shortage of those potential patrons in Midtown. It will also be available for delivery via most third-party delivery apps.
The midtown location will probably not be the last. The company promises, “many more to come” outside its hometown of Dallas. Interested parties can keep up with new developments at the Zalat Pizza Facebook or Instagram page.
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.