The title of Best Pizza In Town is back where it belongs, on Austin Highway at Rittiman Road. And no, I don't mean the Pizza Hut there, I mean the place next door, the revived Purple Garlic.
The place started, the first time, years ago, maybe in the early 90's? I don't know; we discovered it one Thursday night (I don't actually remember that, but we used to have a group called the Thursday Night Supper Club, so it stands to reason), and tried it, and really liked it. Maybe they use a little garlic in the crust; I'm going to say that's what it is, but there has to be more to it than that.
Over the next few years I think I tried about every combination they offered, and loved them all. The pizzas are all thin-crust, none of that faddish deep-dish stuff for these people. And unlike every other pizza place I've ever been to more than once or twice, the pizza at the Purple Garlic was perfect every single time.
Then, tragedy struck. The owner got divorced. Apparently -- this is what I heard, anyway -- she got the business and the name, but he kept the recipes. (I'm guessing that the recipes were his before they got married.) She kept the place open for a while, but it was no good. We tried it a couple of times then, and stopped going. Then, a year or two later, we heard the place had re-opened out in the 'burbs; we tried it there, but apparently (again, I don't really remember) it wasn't worth the drive. We took our business to Volare's, on Broadway in Alamo Heights, which was very good pizza, and which would usually deliver to our house, sometimes without argument. But Volare's prices went up a couple of times, and the shop changed hands, and things were just never as good as before. Where we used to get pizza 3 or 4 times a month, we stopped eating it altogether.
Years passed, and then we both discovered, independently but at about the same time, that the Purple Garlic was suddenly back in its old location, next door to Pizza Hut (which drains off all the customers who wouldn't know a decent pizza if it was wrapped around their faces, still hot from the oven). Can this be, we wondered, the real Purple Garlic, restored to life after its long illness?
Why, yes it can! And it is, it is! Mark Cerroni, the man with the secret recipes, has bought the name back from his ex-wife, and re-opened in the same place he used to operate. He has a partner this time, a familiar-looking man whose name has slipped my mind. The partner seems to be the house oenophile, and he plays the role of Public Face, greeting the customers and checking on how things are, working the room in a casual, friendly, informal way, putting everyone into a mellow mood; kind of like your Aunt Mary during family get-togethers, but without the scolding.
They've opted, this time, for a cross between table service and counter service: they give you a menu, you take it to your table, decide what you want, then place your order at the counter. They bring it out to you. With the wine stash off to one side, and the fountain drinks off to the other, and people generally uncertain about the logistics of ordering, it makes for a little confusion at the register. I reckon they'll work that out in time. But otherwise, it's great having the Garlic back where it belongs.