Momma Pham’s Noodles & More, 2747 S Hulen St, FW. 817-924-2749. 11am-8pm Sun-Mon, 11am-9pm Tue-Thu, 11am-10pm Fri-Sat.
When the folks down the hall at Chow, Baby first hipped me to what was going on over at Momma Pham’s Noodles & More, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. A Vietnamese pho shop that just happened to also sell brick-oven pizzas made about as much sense as breakfast for dinner. At best (I reasoned) you’ve got two foods that don’t mix sharing the floor. And at worst? Well, I’m still vexed by nightmarish visions of hoisin-dabbed pizza crusts piled high with bean sprouts and beef tendon.
Thankfully, the pho-pizza fusion isn’t a dish at Momma Pham’s, nor is the pairing some kind of contrivance designed to be all things to all people. The actual story is more innocent — charming, even. The husband-and-wife team of owners, both first-time restaurateurs, opened a Vietnamese restaurant in a space that happened to come with an awesome pizza oven built right in. Her family hails from Vietnam (the place is named for her mother), and he’s a Greek kid from New Jersey who grew up working in pizza shops.
Their South Hulen Street location next to The Tavern has had a hard time holding a tenant lately, and the new proprietors (wisely, one suspects) didn’t put a lot of money into a slick, fancy remodel. But if a big pizza oven is going to be sitting there in full view of the dining room, it only makes sense to put it to good use — particularly if one of your owners knows his dough.
The resulting eatery, a two-pronged concept that sits in its hand-me-down space about as comfortably as one of those owls that has to roost in another bird’s nest, is quirky, to be sure — but quirky in a sincere way that is almost instantly likeable. It helps immensely that the homemade Vietnamese cuisine is fresh and flavorful, while the pizza is as fine an example of the Neapolitan-Jersey style as anything else in town.
My guest and I visited on a quiet weekday evening and were shown to a comfortable booth by an earnest young man who would be our host, server, and bartender — though he apologized for not having been trained on cocktails just yet. With a popular establishment like The Tavern next door, a well-kept bar will be critical to Momma Pham’s success.
An appetizer of summer rolls — shimmering rice paper wrappers packed with glass noodles, grilled pork, and plenty of basil, green onion, and mint — came with a luscious, tangy peanut sauce for dipping. The first bite into the wrapper unlocked an electric, herbal perfume.
Our order of fried wantons stuffed with chicken was crisp and decadent but wanted for presentation. Unceremoniously arranged around a bowl of that candy-sweet chili sauce, they needed some visual jazz. When a restaurant’s décor is on the drab side, the first plates of food need to sing to the eyes.
My guest had ordered the pho, and we marveled over the rich sourness of the broth. More similar to ramen tonkotsu or “bone broth” than the clearer pho broths I’ve had before, the kitchen’s take on the classic Vietnamese noodle soup was interesting, intense, and extremely satisfying. Dressed with fresh herbs and bean sprouts, even the “regular” portion was more than a meal.
I had ordered a cold noodle bowl with grilled beef kabob. I would have preferred the pho, as my rice vermicelli hadn’t quite softened to al dente, and the beef kabob was served rare. The whole dish seemed just a bit undercooked, though the flavors were pleasant enough. A bit of char on the kabobs would have gone a long way toward making the meal more enjoyable.
We both had ordered pizzas to go, but the pies smelled so good coming out of the oven we decided we ought to at least have a slice before we left. One slice quickly turned to two. Our host knew his stuff — his crust snapped, crackled, and popped. His cheese bubbled. His tomato sauce tanged and twanged. Somehow this humble New Jersey pizza, an odd, afterthought addition to a pretty good new Vietnamese restaurant, is easily the best new pizza in Fort Worth. When word gets out about these $10 16-inch pies, there will be riots in the streets.
So please don’t tell anyone, but do get there to check it out for yourself.
Momma Pham’s Noodles & More
Pork summer rolls $3.99
Fried chicken wontons $4.99
Pho w/beef and meatballs (regular) $8.99
Noodle bowl w/grilled beef kabob $10.99
16” pizza $10