It’s hip, it’s cool, and it’s doing some of the best pizza in town. It is Thirteen Pies and it is only in lucky Fort Worth and Atlanta right now. Bizarrely, Houston, not corporate parent’s home-town Dallas, opens next which makes we wonder if Raised Palate Restaurants (neé Consilient Restaurant Group) didn’t have a non-compete with the purchasers of its Fireside Pies (Chalak Mitra Group, owners of Genghis Grill) not to go back into Dallas with a pizza concept for X years.
Either way, the West 7th development adjacent to Fort Worth’s Cultural District is a natural home for this buzzing, informed concept of pizza (and more). At a recent media event I checked it out. The pizzas are twelve menu regulars plus a rotating thirteenth (hence the restaurant’s name). The chewy, crispy charred thin crust is glorious, but just a vehicle for some of the most creative toppings around. How about fennel salami, smoked provolone, soffritto, castelvetrano olive, yellow tomato and old manchego? It’s “The Iberian” ($15), the first pizza I tried and a candidate for favorite.
Close on its heels comes the Guanciale and Farm Egg Pie ($15). Same crust, but gruyere, roasted onion and frisée. Luscious pork jowl flavors reminded one of bacon.
What about “The 13th Pie?….”. On my visit, it was a mouthwatering lobster with fontina and gruyere spinach, dried tomato, truffle and gremolata ($17).
I called a halt after three pies as I was getting full and I faced the prospect of my dog getting obese as well. Plus, the pattern was clear: a stellar thin crust (which can be prepared gluten-free by the way). Then carefully thought out recipes for the toppings with an unashamedly Italian emphasis in the ingredient tray.
What’s the “more” that I mentioned earlier? It’s everything else. A serious focus on salads, a selection of house-made pastas (including a charmingly named “Real Lasagna”) and some palate inspiring appetizers. I had Baked Goat Cheese with oven-dried tomato, kalamata olive, basil pesto and crostini ($11). The contrast between the bitter olive polyphenols and the exaggerated sweetness of the oven-drying on the tomatoes made for a compelling topping for what you might consider a build-your-own bruschetta kit.
My salad was the daily special, Petite Primavera with Anjou pear, candied walnuts and crumbled Danish blue cheese. I ordered it with high expectations as ‘primavera’ is a flexiterm in which almost anything that can be related to Spring can be inserted (“oh, well this fall squash is from Spring, Texas. So it is really Spring-related”). It did not disappoint, getting finished on the spot.
The Thirteen Pies environment fits in perfectly with its central location in Fort Worth’s smart West 7th Street development. It is furnished with dark woods, comfortable plush seating with a horseshoe-shaped bar and kitchen area as a magnetic centerpiece. If you are a solo then sit there for a bird’s-eye view of the busy kitchen throwing pizzas and manipulating the giant paddles (they are called a ‘peel’ by people with larger vocabularies than me) that get pies in and out of the twin ovens. If you want take out, that is available too.
Drinks are impressive too. Thirteen Pies has caught the cocktail craze with seven custom selections (they look ideal for hot days on the patio). The modest 26-selection wine list is Italy-centric, following the food, but is well-chosen. The distinctive Tramin Chardonnay from Alto Adige ($11/$40) was at the tasting at Jimmy’s that I reported on earlier in the week. It comes highly recommended and, by the bottle, is also a good value. What Thirteen Pies does need here is a couple of Texas wines. Italian varieties do well in the state’s climate and would fit in thematically with the food. Beer mavens will like the half-dozen craft brews including Fort Worth’s own Rahr & Sons Brewing Company.
I hope that the ‘X’ at the end of the first paragraph is a low number. There are several places that Thirteen pies would be a lucky occurrence in Dallas.