A few years ago the restaurants gods apparently decided this city didn’t have enough pizza options. In their infinite wisdom, they bestowed on us, first, Fireside Pies (2949 Crockett St.), with its ambrosial pizza, starters, and salads. And the gods saw that it was good. But then they decided it was joke time and tested our pizza faith with the mediocre likes of Topper’s, Crazy Jay’s, and Pie Five. Verily, they work in mysterious ways.
Now they’ve sent down a new soldier for the Fort’s holy army of dough rollers and marinara ladlers: Cane Rosso (815 W. Magnolia Ave.).
Cane Rosso earned its stripes in Dallas’s Deep Ellum neighborhood, purveying what it calls authentic Neapolitan pizza. The website says everything is made according to the strict guidelines of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana –– the official quality-control watchdogs of the wide world of pizza. The joint has won a million “best of Dallas” awards, nothing is frozen, the flour isn’t enriched, and all of its cheese is produced from a cow whose belly is perpetually rubbed by tickle gnomes. Look it up. The Fort Worth outpost moved into the Near Southside space previously occupied by Ryan’s Deli, which mysteriously vanished several months ago.
Worthians have been very taken with Cane Rosso, much the same way they are every time a super chain (large or small) moves into town (see: Torchy’s Tacos, In-N-Out Burger). On my recent visit, there were no swooning, screaming teenagers a la Beatlemania, but there was a 90-minute wait to get in.
We started with carciofini ($8). The grayish dull-looking fried artichokes were packed with salty, nutty flavor and served with a spicy Calabrian chile aioli that was so good it could make a leather wallet edible. The table split the ample, delicious caesar salad with white anchovies ($10), but our teeth couldn’t penetrate the diamond-like croutons.
The pizzas are thin-crusted, but not floppy-foldy New York-style thin –– something this city desperately needs, by the way. But I digress. I didn’t want to say anything that night for fear of losing cool points, but a lot of the pizza descriptions on the menu read the same, like what you see in some Tex-Mex restaurants. On both pizzas we ordered, the toppings were zesty and fresh-tasting, though the crusts were spongy and damp. All four diners at our table had that awkward moment when no one wanted to say anything about it for fear of being punished by the restaurant gods. I’m sure the association d’pizza or whatever would wag its figurative finger, but I really wish the crust had been cooked a bit longer.
Wet crusts aside, both pizzas were good. We were all pleased with the Luana ($16), topped with local sausage (whatever that means), hot soppressata peppers, mushrooms, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and mozzarella. The Paulie Gee ($16) also drew a round of applause for its soppressata, caramelized onions, Calabrian chiles, basil, San Marzano tomatoes, and to-die-for mozzarella. We even went for some dessert, though I could barely bring it to my mouth, I was so stuffed. Still, the zeppole ($10), made-to-order fried Italian donuts with a chocolate sauce, were a nice way to cap the evening.
It wasn’t a perfect dining experience but a good one. Unlike the other much-hyped places that have come to town recently, this one mostly lived up to its billing. But, hey, resting on laurels is a prickly proposition in this town. If I were Cane Rosso’s operators, I’d still make regular sacrifices to the dining-out deities, who are so fickle. Just ask the folks who ran Ryan’s.
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