Grimaldi’s Coal Brick Oven Pizzeria, 5276 Monahans Av, FW. 817-377-0642. 11am-10pm Sun-Thu, 11am-11pm Fri-Sat.
I left my phone charging at home when I departed for dinner at Grimaldi’s Coal Brick Oven Pizzeria, but fortunately, this upscale pizza purveyor at the Shops at Clearfork had TVs over the bar showing an NBA game — Spurs-Timberwolves, to be precise. Since I had no timepiece on me, I wound up using this game to keep track of time, a great deal of which wound up passing while I waited (and waited) on what should have been a fairly straightforward meal.
I walked into the place during the pregame warmups. The pizzeria was packed on a Friday night, and the hostess did warn me that I should either expect a 35-minute wait for a table or grab a spot at the bar. Since the latter didn’t appear to be opening up any time soon, I put in my name and settled in to watch the game. I had time to try to conjure my memories of Derrick Rose from 2008 versus the ravaged-knee version of him now. I had time to wonder how Marco Belinelli makes those jump shots when he looks like he’s doing the splits every time he launches one. I had time to think, “My God, the T-Wolves’ new coach is 15 years old!” The entire first quarter went by.
In the meantime, I watched tables suitable for one person open up, while parties of two, four, and six who reached the restaurant after me were nevertheless seated. Neglected thus, I felt a great sense of existential solitude creeping in, similar to that felt by the first humans who realized that they were truly alone in a cold, dark, hostile, uncaring universe. I also thought of that old Backstreet Boys song, “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely.” There was something missing in my heart (and stomach).
Finally, with the second quarter halfway gone, the staff finally noticed me, the only person left in the restaurant’s waiting area. The manager did apologize to me, and I immediately placed my order (12-inch custom pizza with spinach, onions, and Italian sausage), having had so much time to think about what I wanted. When the pizza finally arrived — it was the third quarter by that point — I found out why the crowds were here. The fresh ingredients were served on a crust that was nice and crispy, straight from the oven. The vegetables maintained their crunch, and the tomato sauce pinged nicely, but the undisputed star was the cheese. None of this pre-shredded, rubbery stuff that other pizzerias give you. This was the real funky fresh mozzarella, thick slabs of umami-laced goodness. That same cheese contributed to an elegant caprese salad and proved even more stellar on the most decadent Quattro Formaggi pie in town, sharing the spotlight with savory bits of Gorgonzola.
At Grimaldi’s, every pizza is accompanied by a heavy metal spatula to help you lift it off the pizza pan. This sounds like a nice idea. My first attempt to use it to remove a slice wound up knocking the pan and its contents off its wire stand, off the table, and onto the floor, so I had to sit there while they made me another one. The waitress told me that since the restaurant had emptied out somewhat, my new pizza would be done soon. I guess “soon” is a relative term. What I do know is that the fourth quarter was about to start when the hand-tossed replacement came out of the oven to my table. The game, which featured many lead changes and ended in a narrow Spurs victory, was thrilling, but I wasn’t thrilled at seeing the end of it, since I had been there for the beginning.
If you go during the week, it probably won’t take you the length of a regulation NBA game to order and consume a personal-sized pizza. Even so, I do think one of those and a soda shouldn’t cost $22 before tip, even if this place is in The Shops at Clearfork. The base price of a 12-inch pie is a reasonable $11.99, but the restaurant nickel-and-dimes you on the toppings.
This chain prides itself on its fancy service, right down to the red-and-white checkered tablecloths that most other Italian restaurants left behind decades ago. The trouble is that pizza (as opposed to sushi) doesn’t always respond well to the upscale treatment. Also, nobody ever asked me if I wanted dessert, and I do know that the cannoli with the entire fried shell dipped in chocolate is worth seeking out. A free dessert would have been a nice acknowledgment of my long, long wait.
Grimaldi’s has very good pizza, but until the prices drop and the crowds subside, I’ll go somewhere else to analyze basketball.
Caprese salad $10.99
Build your own pizza (12”, no toppings) $11.99
Quattro formaggi pizza (12”) $16.99
Chocolate cannoli $5.99