Locally Known Pizzaiolo Opens Detroit-Style Houston Pizza Shop
Houston’s growing pizza movement, which includes new additions such as Nonno’s and Betelgeuse’s recently opened Montrose location, continues with Gold Tooth Tony’s, located at 1901 North Shepherd. Now in its soft opening, this fast-casual takeout joint specializes in Detroit-style pizza and is the latest concept from chef-owner and pizza guru Anthony Calleo.
Calleo may be best known for his beloved Pi Pizza truck, where he built a devoted following. He opened a brick-and-mortar in 2018 with the late Lee Ellis of Cherry Pie Hospitality, which marked the beginning of the end of that business. Calleo left the business he founded in 2018. It was later acquired by Sambrooks Management Company, which closed it just before the pandemic-driven shutdowns in March of 2020. In the years since, he’s continued managing, cooking and consulting at bars and restaurants including Rudyard’s, Sixes and Sevens, Velvet Oak Tavern and Betelgeuse Betelgeuse.
Gold Tooth Tony’s offers 8”x10” and 10”x14” square-cut, deep-dish, Detroit-style pizzas (similar to and originating from Sicilian-style pizza) which are baked in a seasoned, rectangular, steel pan with buttery brick cheese — a semi-hard, cow’s milk cheese from Wisconsin that uses a special smear (a bacteria used in cheesemaking that’s applied to the surface-ripening cheeses to develop nutty, earthy flavors when young and tangy, pungent notes when aged). It’s spread to the edges against the high-sided walls of the pan and develops beautiful, crispy edges on all sides during baking. The pizza has a yeasty focaccia- and sourdough-like crust that remains moist and airy throughout. It gets a few lines of flavorful pizza sauce ladled over the top.
For his specialty pizzas, Calleo brings together a mix of toppings that balance and complement each other while intensifying the overall flavor. You’ll find sweet, salty, spicy, creamy, tangy and funky flavors all in concert, exciting your palate and making you yearn for the next bite. Options include The Riz with pancetta, Brussels sprouts, blue cheese and chili flakes, Piggy with pancetta and fig, Texas chevre, hot honey and fresh oregano, The Compote V2.0 with cherry jam, Texas chevre and spiced pecans, and the 181 Heights — an ode to the shuttered Pi brick-and-mortar location which was located at 181 Heights Boulevard — topped with arugula pesto, almonds, chili flakes, lemon zest and fennel pollen.
You’ll also find simpler varieties on the menu such as plain cheese, The Pep, with crispy cupping pepperoni, and Margarita with marinated tomato, goat’s milk feta, garlic, and fresh basil. Meatier choices include The Biz with housemade Italian sausage, confit onions and goat milk feta, Hunger Force, which has meatballs and whipped herbed ricotta, Nola Bound with smoked ham, salami and olive tapenade, and the Outy5 with venison sausage and port wine cherries.
Are you pro-pineapple on pizza? Calleo has made his stance clear on the matter with three different pineapple pizzas, including Sebastian’s Big Idea with SPAM, togarashi roasted pineapple and furikake seasoning, The Weirdo with charred and spiced pineapple, serrano peppers and feta, and The Griz with chicken, bacon, charred pineapple, grizzly sauce, housemade ranch and hot honey.
As for add-ons, the sky’s the limit. There are over 30 toppings available to throw on top of your order or to build your own pizza starting at $15. The roasted serrano ranch is a must for dipping and for just $5 you can switch up the cheese to a funky, extra-aged brick cheese from Widmer’s Cheese Cellars of Wisconsin.
Non-pizza options include fried jumbo wings that come six to an order with flavors such as General Tso, Buffalo, Garlic Parm and dry-spiced. The ratio between the breading, the meat and the crunch is superb.
There’s also garlic bread, dough knots dripping with garlic butter, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, fried Brussels sprouts with fresh mint, goat’s milk feta, hot honey and fennel pollen, Pizza Tots smothered in pizza sauce, pizza queso and brick cheese, “nonna-approved” lasagna, Showbiz Queso (which the menu describes as queso that tastes like pizza) and mac and cheese. If you can’t get enough of the latter, the Mac Attack is Back pizza is loaded with a decadent layer of mac finished with crispy bacon pieces.
There are a few sandwiches on the menu, too, including a hearty Meatball Sub with housemade, all-beef meatballs (vegetarian meatballs are also available), marinara, garlic-basil spread and brick cheese, Tony’s Hero with ham, salami, provolone, mayo, tomato and olive salad, and the vegetarian Capricious Sandwich with tomato, goat’s milk feta, arugula, sweet pepper oil and garlic-basil spread.
For dessert, Tony’s offers a rotating selection of cookies from Houston’s Fluff Bake Bar and dough knots with butter, sugar, cinnamon and a choice of icing that includes lemon, blueberry, cream cheese, ricotta icing or port wine cherry jam.
Guests can order at the counter or place pick-up and delivery orders through the website or via third-party food delivery services. There are just a few tables and stools available inside for dine-in. It’s a cashless establishment.
Gold Tooth Tony’s is open Tuesday through Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m. (or sell out). Parking is available on-site. Wait times may be longer than usual during the soft opening.
Mario-Sebastian Berry is a wine and spirits vendor who has been in the hospitality industry since 2002. Currently, he represents Blanco, Texas-based Andalusia Whiskey Co. and multiple wine labels. Somehow, he also finds time to be Houston Food Finder’s associate editor and social media manager.