The best reason to visit one of Collina’s informal, popular and sometimes boisterous locations is their pizza. Well, the pizza and their well-known BYOB policy. As wine and food, especially Italian food, are nearly inseparable, Collina’s BYOB policy is very commendable. It’s nice to be able to have that extra glass of vino to help wash down the food, and to make the meal more enjoyable, without having to pay the typical egregious restaurant markup for wine.

The Collina’s restaurants are some of the best pizza places in the area. A scan of the dining room on most evenings will show it full, or nearly so, of patrons enjoying pizzas. The base, and basis, for their pizzas is a very good crust. These are generally thin crusts, not quite as thin as a typical New York-style, but slightly doughy and very tasty. A whole-wheat version is also offered, which is decent, though quite not as flavorful.

Most pizzas are fitted with mozzarella, provolone, and grated Romano cheeses. The rest of the toppings are fresh and of high quality. There are over a half-dozen interesting specialty pizzas. If one of those does not fit the bill, then Collina’s offers a wide range of additions from which to choose, so almost anything can be created (within the realm of proper American pizza decorum). The large pizza is larger than at other pizzerias, a full twenty inches in diameter, and is almost enough for four adults.

In addition to pizza, they do serve the range of typical Southern Italian-American dishes that you would expect at a place that bills itself as an Italian restaurant in Houston. But, these are generally disappointing. Gooey and bland marinara-esque sauce touches most of them. The pastas are cooked to an overly soft texture, and the stuffed ones can seem too doughy. The decidedly retro Chicken Tetrazini is one of the few non-pizza items worth ordering.

The decor at Collina’s is nothing fancy, but appropriate for a pizza joint. The somewhat expected red-checkered tablecloths cover each table, and large cans of tomatoes and other Italian food items are placed prominently on the shelves near the dining areas. These are informal places, and the settings are functional, yet fitting. Service is usually efficient, better than most pizza places, and almost always friendly.

3835 Richmond (east of Weslayan), Houston, Texas 77027, (713) 621-8844
502 W.19th (between Heights and N. Shepherd), Houston, Texas 77008, (713) 869-0492
8800 Katy Freeway (west of Voss), Houston, Texas 77024 (713) 365-9497

Copyright Mike Riccetti. Adapted from Houston Dining on the Cheap, and used with permission.

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