Black Cat Pizza, 401 Bryan Av, Ste 109, FW. 817-489-5150. 11am-10pm Mon-Thu. Patio open 10pm-2am Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
You’ve got to give Black Cat Pizza props for trying to make an assertive visual statement from its front-side patio. Sure enough, the four sets of French dressing-tinted tables and chairs next to the 10 red bell pepper-colored stools do whet the visual appetite. The rather unassuming design is exemplified by a flapping-in-the-breeze sign emblazoned with a cat’s image along with an ascetic interior highlighted by church pews forming a continuous banquette under a cream-colored cinder block wall.
But what the six-week-old restaurant in South Main Village communicates on the outside is all in stark contrast to the bold flavor combinations and accessibly rustic presentations of its thoughtful menu.
Hewing to a fast-casual approach, Black Cat Pizza offers a savvily edited menu traveling from classic pizzas (cheese, pepperoni, and pepperoni-mushroom) to catchier offerings such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Red Fang. In addition, there’s also a spicy Caesar salad, Spanish bocadillo, and hero sandwiches.
The culinary alchemy performed by founder and head chef Jaime Fernandez begins with his trusty pizza oven, burning cords of post oak at a searing 750 degrees, allowing most pies to emerge in four minutes tops, with blistered crusts and bubbling interiors. If anything, it is the chef’s ballet of gliding oval pizza palettes into his oven’s dancing flames that, paired with the eclectic musical mix of David Bowie and vintage Spanish hip-hop, provides Black Cat’s best non-food entertainment.
As I plunged my fork into my starter, Hail Caesar, it was clear this assortment of greens bore no resemblance to my pappy’s “21 Club” tableside Caesar. The hand-crafted croutons were poised between a snap-crunchy exterior and meltingly soft center, while jagged shards of crisp romaine and razor-thin shavings of Parmesan were napped by the tart, warm burn of a serrano Caesar dressing –– the latter launching this salad into a full-blown meal.
The first of my three pizza slices was pepperoni-mushroom, which also signaled my first encounter with Black Cat’s signature crust, residing in that elusively enjoyable neighborhood between Neapolitan pillowy and New York City brittle-crunch. The pepperoni weren’t shy little fragments but rather coins the diameter of gold sovereigns last seen in a Pirates of the Caribbean treasure chest. Along with studs of mushrooms bathed in an umami marinade of Worcestershire and soy sauces, the pepperoni floated on puddles of the pizza’s garlic-scented tomato sauce.
One of Black Cat’s more whimsically named regular pizzas – the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) –– found inspiration in the cartoon superheroes’ green tint, explaining the prominence of such verdant ingredients as kale, almond-bolstered pesto, and arugula. Felicitously paired with them was a rotating cast of seasonal greens such as zucchini, broccoli, and bok choy, while Marcona almonds brought a welcome crunch to the party.
Black Cat’s weekly special pizza created the meal’s only clear slipup. The grilled celery Caesar pizza proved the old restaurant adage that more is not necessarily better. Instead of being a harmonious combination of ingredients, this pizza was an unkempt melee of everything from all the ingredients from my earlier Caesar salad, plus grilled celery, garlic, and Parmesan shavings.
Quick to rebound, Black Cat’s most beguiling pizza was the Red Fang, with its alternating notes of smoky, spicy, and sweet. The ping-ponging of flavors started with a mix of roasted heirloom tomatoes and sautéed onions underpinning slivers of paprika-scented Spanish chorizo, all yielding to the warm potency from goat-horn peppers. More sweet heat emanated from Thai chile-infused honey on top.
“Bocadillo” translates as “little bites” – quite the misnomer as this double-wide sandwich came with its own toasted awning of a Vietnamese baguette enveloping an heirloom tomato and garlic spread (brightened by orange juice and orange supremes), the salty punch of serrano ham, peppery arugula leaves, and the sharp bite of manchego cheese. This sandwich managed to be both substantial and airy at the same time, surely violating some Einsteinian law of gastronomy.
It spoke volumes about Black Cat’s consistent devotion to authentically sourced ingredients that it stocked its cooler with the distinctive tastes of Mexican-produced Jarritos pineapple soda, along with Mexican Coca-Cola, sweetened with genuine cane sugar, not some artificially derivative corn syrup.
As I strode out through Black Cat’s glass and dark metal doors, I noticed that its only noticeable wall decorations were two T-shirts, in black and burgundy, boasting a logo of a pizza slice cradled by seemingly grateful hands. I didn’t plunk down the $20 for the shirt. However, the mere sight of the souvenir left me smiling – the same expression I wore while eating my way through Black Cat’s uniformly pleasing menu.
Black Cat Pizza
Hail Caesar salad $8
Pepperoni-mushroom pizza $3.50 (slice)
Teen Aged Mutant Ninja Turtles pizza $4.50 (slice)
Red Fang pizza $4.75 (slice)
Grilled celery Caesar pizza $5 (slice)
Spanish bocadillo $10