Theo's Pizza LLC
4218 Magazine St
New Orleans, LA 70115
Napoleon's Ratings - ***/*****
People come together over pizza, one of the easiest sharing foods imaginable. But when it comes to just what sort of pizza, the question can be divisive. People are passionate about the particular style that satisfies them most. Since opening a few years back, Theo's has added a new ripple to this great pizza debate in New Orleans. It follows the standard pizzeria template, but the cracker-crisp crust is so different that it stands apart from anywhere else in town.
The first Theo's location is a typical Magazine Street storefront with old architectural features and the evidence of several layers of successive remodeling. It's a little short on space, and the counter area for waiting in line to place an order is especially cramped. For its second location, this time in Mid-City, Theo's rectified those problems with a much larger space that has a minimal though still stylish, contemporary look. It's a neat, comfortable space with its own identity.
Service is the same format at each location: you order at the counter and someone delivers your meal to the table. They identify you by small stands holding different post card-sized images of music acts assigned to each order, so you might be the Bob Dylan order or you could be getting the pizza for the Meters table. It's a pretty efficient process, splitting the difference between counter pick-up and table service, and it works for casual, busy pizzerias like these.
The structure of the classic pizzeria meal is a salad and a pie, and Theo's has a few options in the green and leafy department to do this. The "super soaked" salad is the best with its load of olive salad and a scattering of artichoke hearts over mixed greens. The spinach salad is hearty, though it can feel like a seesaw ride between copious amounts of goat cheese, tart, chewy cranberries and crunchy walnuts over the greens. A mild pepper jelly vinaigrette brings more sweet than heat. Other options are basic hot wings or bread sticks stuffed with peppers, cheese and a dipping cup of tomato sauce, which is basically a deconstructed version of the pizza ahead anyway.
Of course, pizza is the main act here, and as alluded to above it's quite a bit different from anywhere else thanks to a crackling-crisp crust. Its closest relative would be the St. Louis style pizza. Fortunately, Theo's foregoes the Provell cheese - a processed blend that's essential to the regional specialty of Missouri but perhaps impossible to appreciate unless you've been raised with it. Instead, the toppings here start with the normal tomato sauce and mozzarella and then grow increasingly more exotic. To the usual spinach, mushrooms, and onions, their topping list adds squash, Anaheim peppers, blue cheese and spicy tomatoes. The sauce is lightly applied, though the pies get a dusting of finely-ground pepper and seasonings with a little more zip. Standouts among the specialty pizza selection are the "expert," which is covered with smoky, crumbled bacon, plus spinach, purple onions, olive oil and garlic; the "eccentric," a wide-ranging mash-up of yellow squash, chicken, jalapeños, feta, pepper jack and mozzarella; and a rendition of Buffalo chicken pizza that for once isn't gross. Other than pizza, Theo's also makes sandwiches on hoagie rolls or sliced bread. These are fine, but they're no replacement for the pizza.
A collection of brownies and cookies made in house and individually wrapped, bake sale-style, wait at the counter. Most people seem to fill up on pizza, but if you have a sweet carving afterward one of these will do the trick.
Theo's serves beer and wine. The wine list is just a little better than you might expect for a neighborhood joint and the beer selection shows evidence of a beer geek with good taste, especially the draft beers. Sometimes they practically give the stuff away: on Monday nights it's $1 domestic bottled beers, on Tuesdays it's $1 draft beers and on Wednesdays it's $10 bottles of wine.
Prices are in line with pizza parlor standards. A small starts at $8.50, a large at close to $11. The specialty pizzas run quite a bit higher, with larges getting up towards $20. Two people should expect to spend $40 to split a pizza, a salad and have some drinks. On nights when drink specials are in effect (see above) however, the bargain factor is in high gear.
Theo's unique crust proves divisive: people either love it or hate it. There seems little room for ambivalence when it comes to this pizza. Count me in the camp that loves it. These two Theo's shops are friendly, easy-going places that have become reliable standbys when the call for pizza arises.