Today was going to be an EPIC day. Today, strangers and friends from all over are piling into Dallas’ wildest bus and together they will embark on one of the city’s best adventures: Dallas’ Pizza Tour 2011. It was going to involve lots of beer (Thank you to Elm Street Bar for donating the keg) and drinkin’, a couple of bumps and bruises (but well worth it), lots of singing and even a little pole dancing and certainly plenty of pizza from Dallas’ best pizza joints.
Thanks to the adventure king, Steven Doyle, he arranged the ultimate pizza tour – our first stop: the lovely home of Janice Parigi, owner of Parigi on Oak Lawn. She had been developing pizza recipes recently and needed some taste testers to help out so what better group than us to help her sample? Janice’s home was a Martha Stewart feast for the eyes – but better, with modern bursts of colors mixed in with elegant antique pieces. Fresh, robust yet comforting are the three words I’d use to describe Janice all around – her home, her food, and her personality.
The crust, which her husband Roger so eloquently rolled out, was delicate and crispy all around which was a perfect complement to the sweet and savory tomato sauce and the earthy toppings – my favorite being the white truffle mushroom pizza. The cheese to sauce ratio was perfect, not too overwhelming which allowed the fresh ingredients to shine without masking any of the vibrant flavors. I made it a point to try every single pizza she made ignoring the advice of food tour veterans. What can I say? When it comes to good food moderation does not exist in my vocabulary.
After the wonderful pizzas at Janice’s we were off to our second stop: Zanata. Located out in Rockwall with an additional location in Plano, this pizza joint has a great rustic approach that would be a great place for friends and family. With plenty of seating, large open windows that fill the space with natural light and a large central kitchen where guests are able to observe the magic of the kitchen in front of them, you seem to be transported to a different place. And what a wonderful place it is.
Executive Chef, Ted Grieb offers a great selection of wood fired pizzas along with gourmet entrees like the Roasted Gorgozola Stuffed Quail or the Viking Village Sea Scallops. Also on the menu is handcrafted Italian Gelato like Blood Orange or Pistachio, but let’s get onto the pizza shall we? My favorite had to be The Forest Pizza which had chantrelle mushrooms, fresh brussel sprouts, bacon, and Caciocavallo cheese, which resembles provolone.
The runner up was the Standard which had pomodoraccio tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil – simplicity at its best. The crust for Zanatas was unique – when baking in the hot wood fire oven the crust would puff up around the edges making the outside very crispy with a nice fluffy and chewy inside, a texture that I rarely find but love in my pizzas.
It was obvious Chef Grieb is passionate about his pizza, the love for the art is shown through the way he handles the dough and the attention he pays when cooking the pizza. With a Mediterranean influence in his dishes, Grieb will tickle your buds with his playful side and find unique ingredients like the Dolce which has figs, prosciutto, onions, balsamic, hazelnuts and goat cheese or the Aegean, packed with spinach, feta, olives, mushrooms, onions and artichokes. Whichever you pick, just remember the more people you bring, the more varieties you get to try!
After our Zanata feast it was time to get back on the bus. It was a much needed break as we all laid back, unbuckled our belts a few notches and sipped on some ice cold beer as we made our way to our next stop: Coal Vines. With “Highway to Hell” blasting, and the wind blowing through our hair and feeling a little buzzed on a Saturday early afternoon — I realize that I was having the time of my life. That Steven Doyle, leave it up to him to throw a good tour be it Burger, Taco, Vegan or PIZZA.
With beer and tomato sauce flowing through our veins, the energy on the bus was starting to get pretty nice and saucy. We were singing at the top of our lungs, and lots of fist pumping action was going on, some even danced; in fact, we were having so much fun a complete stranger hopped on and joined in on the fun while we were driving through downtown to Coal Vines.
Coal Vines concept creator, Joseph Palladino creates delicious, paper-thin, New York styled pizzas that will leave your mouth watering for more. I’ve actually been here before and immediately ordered another one to take home…to eat that night. Coal Vines menu was created with one of Dallas’ most prominent chefs: Samir Dhurandhar who was kind enough to join us and talk about upcoming expansion projects for Coal Vines throughout cities in Texas like Fort Worth, Houston and Austin. Texas be prepared: some of the BEST New York Pizza is coming your way.
My favorite was the Bolognese which had a rich tomato sauce, mozzarella, Bolognese meat and béchamel sauce, need I say more? Other favorites included plain pepperoni and the white pizza made with mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan and oregano. The secret to Coal Vine’s great pizza is their rare coal burning oven; it ensures that the crust becomes crispy on the outside but maintaining a soft pillowy inside.
Don’t forget to check out Coal Vine’s extensive wine menu – they literally have an entire wall of wines. With comfortable open patio seating along with artistic décor of beautiful mirrors and paintings, this is the perfect place for a date night or with friends. And quite honestly, forget the knife and fork, I folded mine and ate my pizza the way a New Yorker eats it – quickly and furiously. On top of the great food the warm hospitality from Joseph and Samir is reason enough to come back again and again; that Joseph, he’s a charmer.
We were winding down to the end of our tour and the last two places were in Deep Ellum. Our first stop was Serious Pizza which had just opened on Thursday. Owner Mike Turley has the right idea for a neighborhood pizza joint: a no frills, casual hang out equipped with a bar and plenty of pizza, this is the place to go for college kids, partiers, and anyone who enjoys a good old fashioned GENEROUS slice of pizza. Did I also mention they’re open til 3 AM?
Mike Turley has been twirling pizzas for the past 8 years; he’s a pro to say the least. Any seat in the house is a front row seat, as you watch his amazing hand acrobatics transform a lump of dough into a majestic, gigantic, sheet of pizza heaven. We’re talking 30” pizzas here people. Feel free to load it up with any ingredient of your choice ranging from artichokes, broccoli, peppers to salami, meatballs and bacon.
For vegetarians, I highly recommend the Veggie 2.0 which was packed with spinach, broccoli, fresh tomatoes, artichokes and ricotta cheese and for the carnivores the Big Meat will be a huge hit with pepperoni, Italian sausage, ham, meatballs and bacon. Feel free to buy pizza by the slice or take home a whole pie in Medium, Large or EXTRA Large ( I am convinced the XLG could feed a small village).
By now, I am counting my blessings I chose to wore a moo-moo like dress because if I had worn pants, they’d be off. But I was ready for the grand finale: Il Cane Rosso. I’ve heard myths and legends about this once mystical mobile pizza vendor and finally I was going to experience it in the flesh. Now with a permanent location down in Deep Ellum, owner Jay Jerrier is pulling out all the big guns. With a religious following for his Neapolitan-style pizzas, I was ready to be inspired.
The beauty of Il Cane Rosso’s pizza lies in the slightly charred crust that gives it a nice crunch but leaving a soft chewy interior. The oven used is a wood fired grill using Texas hardwood that can cook a pizza in two minutes flat. Jerrier has extensively studied the art of pizzas in Italy and respects the art of pizza making to the fullest degree. The fresh mozzarella on top of the pizzas are made fresh daily in house, the flour for the dough is directly imported from Italy, and Jerrier even gets his sausage from one of the best suppliers in Dallas—Jimmy’s in East Dallas.
Being a traditionalist I always judge a pizza place on its most basic pizza – the Margherita. Il Cane Russo’s, without fail is the best Margherita pizza I’ve tasted to date. Perhaps it’s the house made mozzarella, or that slight char on the crust, or the fresh basil that you can smell upon walking through the front doors – the flavors just meld together perfectly. I wanted to stand up and exclaim “YES! This is the Margherita pizza I’ve been waiting all my life for!”
The popular favorite is the Zoli with Italian tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, Jimmy’s sausage and hot soppressata. It’s one of those pizzas you just shouldn’t miss, order one to take home if you have to. Il Cane Rosso also offers house made pasta made fresh daily and great appetizers like Fried Artichokes with Spicy Arugula and Angioletti, a fried dough with sugo and parmigiano.
What better way to end the most epic pizza tour than with dessert? Jay knew the way to my heart. S’mores Calzone would be a kid’s dream topped with melted chocolate, marshmallows and caramelized sugar. My two favorites were the Bella Mela which is a pizza covered with Vanilla bean mascarpone, caramelized apples, sea salt and caramel and Zeppole, a fried dough with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce. The best part of the Zeppole’s is they’re served in a brown paper bag with powdered sugar which you shake up and once the dust settles, reach in and experience a warm beignet like treat. I was tempted to grab the remaining Zeppoles but to risk judgment, I refrained.
As celebration for the end of the tour, Crave contributor and publisher at Lone Star Food Junkies, Jim McClure sabered a couple bottles of champagne (Doyle did one too!) on the patio of Il Cane Rosso. Apparently this has been a long-time tradition for all Doyle’s food tours and let me tell you folks, it was EXCITING! After a huge thank you to all the vendors and Steven for organizing such an amazing event we celebrated with some bubbly champagne. What can I say, we’re just high class like that. Stay tuned for future food tours coming up in the next few months on Crave, you won’t want to miss it!