Pizza Bar None, 609 S Jennings Av, FW. 817-720-6666. 11am-9pm Mon-Wed, 11am-10pm Thu-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
The T-shirt was the first thing I noticed when my friend and I strolled into Pizza Bar None early on a Tuesday evening. Cotton heavy from use, sagging from co-owner Tom Buell’s slender frame, the shirt was decorated with stains — an impressionist’s canvas of various reds, pinks, and deep-set grays, the result of sauce and dough mishaps old and new. And Buell wore it proudly as he hustled back and forth into the kitchen doing literally everything, from rolling dough to baking pies to operating the deep fryer. A university-aged young woman straight out of a John Hughes movie leaned against the cash register blank-eyed. I kept hoping at some point she’d blow a giant bubblegum bubble, but she never did.
As my friend and I sat at the bar (which Buell built along with business partner Grafton Kille), I realized the T-shirt had already told me everything I needed to know. It said this new Near Southside pizzeria was about economy and efficiency — in other words, it was about business. It told me the Bar None co-owners were staying true to the heritage of pizza, serving quick, affordable, easy-to-eat pies. Taste would have to be only “good enough.”
Fine by me. Pizza, after all, was invented in 1700s Naples for poor stevedores to eat on their lunch breaks. In short, pizza was meant to be three things: affordable, quick, and easy to eat with your hands. I believe one can’t honestly critique pizza or its purveyors without remembering the purpose and provenance of the food in the first place.
From a selection of only two appetizers, my friend and I ordered both — buffalo chicken wings and mozzarella sticks. Of five pizzas (you can also build your own), we chose the supreme and a classic margarita. We also ordered Bar None’s only dessert, tiramisu.
The John Hughes character dropped the tiramisu on the bar top in front of us almost as soon as we’d ordered it. I looked at her surprised. “It doesn’t take as long as the rest,” she said by way of explanation, the fact she’d served us dessert first eluding her. My friend and I laughed but chose convention over immediacy and pushed the too-early tiramisu aside.
The steaming mozzarella sticks arrived soon after. The appetizer was successful on all key fronts: batter, cheese, and taste. The shell was denser and crunchier than most — somehow at once crisp and moist, thick and easily penetrated. The melted cheese even managed not to slide out of its skin whole with my first bite, which is a great point of contention between me and most other mozzarella sticks. And the taste was good enough.
The buffalo chicken wings landed on the bar top next. I could see these were better than passing. The skin was crisp and golden and had almost the texture of duck, and the meat was rich, rosy and perfectly done. I asked Buell the secret to the delectable skin.
“Cook ’em long,” Buell said. “Super hot oil for 25 minutes.”
Then he brought us our bubbling pies.
The pizza dropped us back down to good enough.
Both restaurateurs attended pizza school in Las Vegas before opening Bar None — they’re also working tennis pros — but the pies weren’t quite as New York-style as I would have liked. Wide slices perfect for folding, light sauce and heavy cheese, crunchy yet supple crust, and lots of grease — these, among others, are the chief characteristics of good New York-style pizza. Bar None’s was heavy on sauce and light on cheese. This mattered, since the toppings were fresh but the sauce was imbued with a distinctly canned quality. Bar None’s dough is made each morning. It tasted fresh, but the springy crust was undercooked. Buell lamented to me that customers expect their pizza too quickly, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was sacrificing taste for speed.
By the time we got to the waiting tiramisu, it was dry and rubbery. I think I had the same one when I was a kid at Luby’s.
Still, my friend and I ultimately left satisfied — not awed, but satisfied. Because the T-shirt didn’t lie. Pizza is as much about speed and value as it is about taste, and Bar None has the balancing act down pat.
Pizza Bar None
Mozzarella sticks $6
Buffalo chicken Wings $7
Classic margarita Pizza $11
Supreme pizza $11