Slice of Italy appeals to high school crowd
Most afternoons, Niki’s Pizza in Round Rock is chock full of high school students divvying out $5.50 for the joint’s two-slice-and-a-drink combo.
The late lunch crowd arrives around 2 p.m., with Round Rock High School seniors Cody Hall, Adam Thompson and Blaze Utz toting laptops.
“You don’t get tired of the pizza. It’s good New York pizza,” Thompson said.
Owners Mike Bajrami and Niki Neziri scouted out this location at 1205 Round Rock Ave. for the purpose of attracting students. They even offer a 10 percent discount with a student ID. By now, Bajrami, who is also the manager, knows most students by name.
The Round Rock location opened just two years ago, but Niki’s Pizza has been in Austin since 1981 when Neziri, a native of Italy, opened the first restaurant by The University of Texas campus at Dobie Mall, selling New York–style pizza by the slice.
The dough is made fresh daily, a process that Neziri learned from his father in Treviso, Italy. Neziri lived in Italy for 25 years before immigrating to Brooklyn. He then migrated south to Austin to visit the UT campus, although he did not attend the university.
Neziri has since sold the Dobie Mall location as a franchise to his longtime employee of 30 years, Miguel Rios. Neziri later opened locations off Parmer Lane near I-35, in Cedar Park and in malls in Victoria and Temple.
Opening a pizza place with Neziri was a career change for Bajrami, who had been working in management at Austin Lighting Products. The two have known each other for about 10 years.
“I respect him like an uncle,” Bajrami said of Neziri.
Niki’s Pizza now offers more than just pizza by the slice, though that basic option is still the most popular with students. Customers can order whole pies and pastas such as chicken piccata, florentine and marsala, and calzones. All chicken pasta dishes are $8.95.
Pizza toppings include sausage, Canadian bacon, olives, pineapple, basil, sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes. Prices start at $5.95 for a one-topping, 10-inch pizza and go up to $15.95 for a 16-inch specialty pizza.
Dishes are created from family recipes, including the secret sauce used on the pizzas that Neziri inherited from his father.
“It comes from knowing what to do with the ingredients, and we will make anything a customer wants,” Neziri said.
This sauce is one reason Utz said the pizza is so great. He also likes that pizzas come light on the sauce. Utz frequents the restaurant nearly every day for two slices, usually pepperoni.
Neziri’s recipes have now been passed down to Bajrami and his brother, Nehat, who works in the kitchen. The pair emigrated from Croatia. Even though Bajrami does not have previous culinary experience, he said he is a quick learner.
“It was easy for me and not something that’s difficult,” he said.
- Calzone: Stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella and sausage ($5.95)
- Chicken parmigiana: Breast of chicken breaded and fried, topped with mozzarella and marinara sauce, and served with pasta ($8.95)
- Chicken fettuccine alfredo: Breast of chicken with white cream sauce served with pasta ($8.95)
- Lasagne: Served with garlic rolls ($6.95)
- White Wonder Pizza: Spinach, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and ricotta ($9.95–$16.95)
Specialty pizzas are available in four sizes for $9.95–$16.95.
- White Wonder: Spinach, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and ricotta
- Pesto: Basil pesto sauce, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes
- BBQ chicken: Barbecue sauce, grilled chicken breast, red onions, garlic and cilantro
- Hawaiian: Ham and pineapple
- Alfredo: Chicken, Alfredo sauce and Parmesan cheese
Niki’s Pizza, 1205 Round Rock Ave., Ste. 137, 386-1632, www.nikispizzapasta.com