629 Stayton St, FW. 817-349-0031. 11am-10pm Sun-Thu, 11am-midnight Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted. $
So we’ve got another national pizza chain here. California-based MidiCi is due to open three additional locations in North Texas — including one in Euless — but the first one landed in Fort Worth in the shopping center on West 7th Street that I guess we’re supposed to call Left Bank now. I mean, do I have to? More importantly, how does this place differ from the Pie Five down the street or any other chain pizzeria? Well, like the other franchises stretching all the way to the East Coast, this restaurant has a black olive tree growing inside the building, spreading its branches over the black wood tables. It also specializes in Neapolitan pizza, the thin-crusted affair that you’re supposed to fold over or go at with a knife and fork, made in ovens imported from Naples that bake the pie in less than two minutes. For me, though, it’s the extras that make this place worth coming back to.
The appetizer with two meatballs in sauce was unmemorable, but I had much better luck with an item marked as a popular selection on the menu. The burrata with melon and prosciutto was situated on a palm-sized ball of mozzarella cheese with a center of butter and cream. My melon was a touch under-ripe, though I imagine this will correct itself once cantaloupe comes back in season. In any event, I didn’t feel like complaining, thanks to the cheese and the prosciutto (the real stuff from San Daniele), sliced translucently thin and hitting me with a wave of salty tanginess at the end. The dish was served with two slices of crusty bread drizzled in balsamic vinegar.
When MidiCi first opened last month, it gave out free margherita pies for lunch. This dish indeed showed off the freshness of the ingredients, with the sauce not ginned up with sugar the way so many other branches do it. The drizzle of olive oil punched up the pie’s peppery note. I found that the crust, blackened and with just the right degree of chewiness, stood up just fine underneath these simple toppings, though a knife and fork might be better instruments for the specialty pies that are loaded down with ingredients.
The Devil’s (Diavola) Pizza features spicy sausage and Calabrese salami as well as red chile peppers, and the heat complemented the savoriness of the tomato sauce instead of overpowering it. Even that wasn’t as memorable as The Forest, an aptly named pizza getting its deep-woodsy, earthy flavors from rosemary-scented cotto ham, black olives, and mushrooms. That combination proved so good that I wondered why every pizza chain doesn’t offer it. I rank olives among my least favorite pizza toppings, so any pie that convinces me to leave the damn things on there is doing something right.
MidiCi offers a selection of wine and beer beyond what you’d see in an ordinary pizzeria, as well as Italian coffee. I usually take cola with my pie and leave it at that, but this location also had a menu of Italian cream sodas that my guests and I all found irresistible. So the beverages came in tall glasses piled high with whipped cream (the real stuff, not the stuff from an aerosol can) in orange, watermelon-strawberry, and coconut flavors. They all struck a balance without being cloying or watered down by the small ice cubes.
Any of the sodas would work perfectly as a dessert, but we still ordered the kitchen’s signature Nutella calzone. That same crust that was the base of our pizza proved its versatility on the outside of this large confection, encasing the addictive chocolate hazelnut paste in a shell that offered enough resistance without any off-putting crunchiness. With berries strewn on the plate and a dusting of powdered sugar on top, it reminded me of a doughnut filled with chocolate creme. When I first went about a month ago, I ordered the house-made gelato for dessert, and the kitchen brought it to me before my pizza arrived. I’m chalking that snafu up to first-day jitters, since nothing like that happened on subsequent visits. In any event, the ice cream is served photogenically in jiggers. That, along with the pinging scoop of raspberry (to offset the chocolate one I ordered alongside), helped compensate for the fact that there were only four flavors on offer, though this may change as the flavors rotate.
MidiCi’s business model had its founder selling off hundreds of franchises before even a single slice of pizza had been sold. I should probably hate this place just for that, but I can’t. The food delivers too well for its price point. Hip without being suffocatingly so, and silently playing old Italian films on a back wall, MidiCi is perfect for a business lunch – and my new pizzeria when I’m on West 7th.
Burrata w/melon and prosciutto $9.95
The Margherita $8.95
The Forest $11.95
Italian soda $3.50
Nutella calzone $6.50