You're actually spot on. The northeast has no concept of what a Texan would consider "spice". That said, having lived substantial portions of my life in both parts of the Country, there is a completely divergent point of view regarding each palate. In this instance I - a resident Texan - will defend the north-eastern point of view. In the NE they do not require heat in everything they eat. Pizza is no exception. Many of the sauces are more sweet than they are hot, and when it comes to pizza in TX that is one of the most consistently missed elements; the sauce sucks. Niki's is the closest I have found here.
Thanks for the tips on House and Backspace. I haven't been to either, but both websites (especially Backspace) have my interest.
I met a guy from Delaware recently who recommended Craig O's. I ordered it today and was disappointed only because it was so undercooked. The cheese was actually really good, and the flavor was good as well, but it was just barely halfway done from my perspective. It seemed as it if was pulled from the oven at the first possible moment that one could consider it "done". I will try it again and order it well done because it still has potential.
I've been here 2+ years after living my entire life in NJ and Philly. I love good pizza; perhaps more than any other food. So here's my take at this point:
Home Slice: Seems to be the crowd favorite (the lines can be long). It's not bad pizza. For the northeast crowd, some might even find it average. The crust is crispy, but they cheat with liberal amounts of cornstarch to crisp up the texture. The toppings are solid, and worthy of a good pizza place. The cheese is weak, and lacks any real body. I'd disparage it and call it part-skim, but even part-skim can be good. It's one of the better slices in Austin but the cheese is a miss and the sauce is not offensive, but not memorable.
Saccones: They nailed the cheese and toppings, and the sauce is good. It all tasted right. But that damned rotary glass door oven has to be blamed for the totally lackluster crust. This place has the vibe of a real pizza joint, and the pizza is solid. They even have pork roll sandwiches for the true Jersey crowd! But, in the end it's just better than most in Austin, but not quite at the level of real Jersey pies.
Little Deli: Man, the delta on this place is massive. Truth is, their whole pies are good by Austin standards, but not great. But sometimes if you order by the slice, it all comes together pretty well (the crisp factor meets the taste factor). At their best the Little Deli might be the best slice in Austin. At their worst, they're better than average in Austin, but that's not saying much. Regardless, I will be back and they remain on this pizza snob's radar.
Niki's: This place flies under the radar. They serve a proper slice, in a proper atmosphere, and offer sandwich options like a chicken or meatball parm, or a calzone, just like a pizza parlor back east. The slices aren't great, but unlike the other places here in Austin, the crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings, are all better than average (I find other pizza parlors to be good at one element, and bad at the others). I brought my Long Island native co-worker there and he agreed; it's pretty good pizza! Their sauce might be the best in town. It's the right balance of sweet and savory.
As for other pies I can recall:
Salvation: Not bad, and worth a visit.