Delucca Gaucho Pizza & Wine, 2001 W Southlake Blvd, ste103, Southlake. 682.477.4040. 11am-9pm Sun, 5pm-9pm Mon-Thu, 5pm-10pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Brazil has attracted Italian expats ever since Genoese sailors and merchants arrived there in the early 1500s. Immigration surged in the late 19th century, spurred on by an economic crisis in the newly united Italy. Today, it’s estimated that 15 percent of Brazilians have origins in the boot-shaped country. The city of Sao Paolo alone is home to more ethnic Italians than Rome. Their influence on Brazil is enormous, from popular religious festivals like San Vito to wild-eyed soccer mania in “Little Italy” neighborhoods –– and, of course, the food.
The Brazilian husband-and-wife team of Evandro Caregnato and Vanderleia Mallmann showcases the delicious results of this cultural exchange at their restaurant Delucca Gaucho Pizza & Wine in Southlake. The couple spent years working for Texas de Brazil and opening the chain’s churrascarias around the world. Delucca offers a twist on the traditional Brazilian steakhouse. Instead of roasted meats, diners can enjoy 20 varieties of piping-hot pizzas (including five of the dessert kind), antipasto, and housemade lobster bisque served at table on a never-ending loop.
My guest and I began our weekend feast with the colorful antipasto platter. Slices of parmesan, manchego, and blue cheese were nestled in a mound of gently dressed arugula, joined by salty charcuterie and crusty bread. Marinated olives, red peppers, and a fat bulb of roasted garlic added punch.
The orange-colored lobster bisque arrived in white drinking cups sans spoons, a succulent velveteen soup that tasted rich and full-bodied. I mopped up every drop with my last bit of bread. The antipasto and bisque are both all-you-can-eat, and while we could have ordered more, I wanted to try all 20 sweet and savory varieties of pie, which I did, bringing to bear my vast college experience eating monumental amounts of pizza. Pro tip: Ask for small slices from the outset of your meal.
Delucca’s pizzas are blessedly light, with thin crusts that strike a keen balance between crispy and chewy. Numerous wood-fired ovens in the open kitchen blazed each pie with a smoky flavor and slight char. We were impressed by the wide variety of cuisine styles on the pizzas, including garlic-picanha steak, chicken tikka masala, and barbecue pork with jalapeños. My favorite was the spicy-sweet soppressata and candied bacon, followed by the decadent chicken with Catupiry (a creamy Brazilian cheese).
Hard-boiled eggs topped the Portuguese pizza (the best-loved in Brazil, reportedly), along with sausage, ham, olives, onion, and oregano –– it was the most memorable and adventurous pie we tried. In addition to exotic ingredients like truffle and hearts of palm, classic pizzas like pepperoni and margherita ensure that everyone will find something to like. Gluten-free crusts are also available.
A few pizzas fell flat. The shrimp-and-fontina pie was a misfire (as seafood pizzas usually are), and soggy greens bogged down the spinach-bacon pizza. On the latter, the combination of Mexican eloté with a flour crust seemed too starchy, even though the corn by itself was not bad. Bland fruit marred the mix of roasted pear and gorgonzola on the ingredient’s namesake pie.
We could not agree on the best dessert, but we did discover that slices of both the Nutella and bananas flambé pizzas tasted best when smashed together into a single sandwich. The blackberry mascarpone pie blended sweet and tart flavors, while the dulce de leche and coconut collided sweet with sweet.
Throughout the meal, I sipped a traditional lime caipirinha (the restaurant’s signature cocktail), motivated to keep eating by the stout dose of cachaça (a Brazilian spirit distilled from sugarcane). My guest tried the Guaraná, a sweet Brazilian soft drink whose Red Bull-ish aroma sparked flashbacks from da club.
Delucca is a far cry from any buffet-style all-you-can-eat pizza joint you can think of. It feels upscale and rustic-chic, with an industrial look and simple wood tables. Wine cases are stacked high on one wall, and the seemingly constant interaction between servers and guests created a convivial vibe. All of our servers graciously answered all of my questions and delivered any pizza we requested to our table in minutes.
One of the owners stopped by our table for a chat, sharing Brazilian travel tips and her excitement about the pizzeria’s future. Soon they will open a second Delucca, this one in Dallas’ Design District, followed by a location in Fort Worth next year. (They’re still looking for a location.) For now, you can find the confluence of Italy and Brazil in Southlake.
Delucca Gaucho Pizza & Wine
Unlimited pizza, lobster bisque, and antipasto $18.95 per person