Monday, December 15, 2014

St. Philip Pizza Parlor + Bakeshop

About a month ago, I met a group of friends for dinner at the new St. Philip Pizza Parlor + Bakeshop in Sunset Valley. St. Philip was the patron saint of bakers, and perhaps coincidentally (or not), the project has been helmed by Phillip Speer, longtime pastry chef extraordinaire of Uchi. And while St. Philip is owned by the Uchi Restaurant group, this is clearly not a Japanese restaurant.
They took the old Cannoli Joe's (nee Wolfe's Nursery) on Highway 290 next to the Toney Burger Center, and converted it into a very modern, streamlined building. In addition to St. P, there's Stouthouse Coffee Pub and a new branch of local spa Milk + Honey. So you can go have a meal (they do B, L + D) at St. P, get all relaxed with a facial or massage at Milk + Honey, and then get caffeinated again at Stouthouse. Good plan! St. P is on the east side of the complex (closest to the Burger Center) and has a lovely shaded patio area as well as some outdoor dining spots. The inside isn't as large as I expected, but at 6ish on a Friday night, they were already packed to the gills with families, couples, small groups, you name it. I didn't get too much of a chance to gawk at the interior given the hustle and bustle, but it's got a warm farmhouse modern appeal to it.

Service was very friendly and once we ordered, dishes came at a pretty good pace. I should also add we had to wait about 15-20 minutes for a table, and they had servers outside taking drink orders and also coming around with warm pretzel bites and mustard for nibbling. Once seated, we started with the house meatballs (beef and pork, I believe) and paired them with the brodo sauce (you can pick from three different types of meatballs and three different sauces); these were served with potatoes. They were tasty, but not the most tender, and fairly small (not quite golf-ball sized) for the price. {Looking at their menu online now, they may have cut back on meatball options, as I am now only seeing two choices of each meatball and sauce.}
St Philip meatballs
These ricotta dumplings with corn, Serrano ham, mushrooms were delicious, but the housemade umami sauce was a bit overpowering for the light and tenderness of the dumplings (I'd call them more like gnocchi or gnudi). It was a flavorful sauce, but both dark in color and in taste, and to me it took control of the dish. Maybe a lighter hand with the sauce or just lightening the sauce altogether would have made this one more of a winner for me.
St Philip ricotta dumplings
Everyone who I knew who had been to St. P before me said "get the cauliflower." So we did, and yes, it's quite tasty. The cauliflower is lightly fried to a golden brown and served with a Greek yogurt sauce, pine nuts, and golden raisins, which I could have done without. You can now make this at home, as the Austin American-Statesman obtained the recipe for it!
St Philip cauliflower
We picked the roasted veggie pizza with its almond Romesco sauce. I liked the chewiness (but not too chewy) of the crust, but felt the Romesco needed more acid (sherry vinegar?) to bring out the contrast. I have heard the clam pizza is quite good.
St Philip veggie romesco pizza
From the daily dessert board, we went with the brownie a la mode with a salted caramel sauce. Definitely tasty, though certainly a small portion.
St Philip brownie dessert
Overall, I felt the food was decent, but could use some little tweaks. Yes, I am being a bit picky, but I am comfortable with my palate to know when something needs a little more acid or a little less umami. But I really felt the portion sizes are small for what you are paying, especially the meatballs and brownie. I would like to go for breakfast one day; they have a separate pastry counter for eat in or take out and some beautiful items in there. Given the buzz and hype of St. Philip even before they were open, I am sure this place will do well.