There is no older item on the menu at Nonna in Dallas than the white clam pizza. It’s been there since the beginning, and, as Nonna approaches 15 years, that means something to owner Julian Barsotti.
The Dallas restaurateur behind Nonna, Barsotti’s, and Tex-Mex spot Odelay says his last meal would be linguine and clams. It’s all about the clam brine getting swirly with garlic and wine. He’d read about New Haven’s famous clam pizza, and he imagined what it’d take to make one for Nonna.
He started with baby little neck clams clattering in the pan with mountains of chopped shallots and glugs of white wine. Once shucked, the clams got marinated in Vidalia onions and herbs. Some cream, some clams, and that boozed-up sauce is spread over stretchy-soft dough, along with dashes of chili flakes, parsley, and Parmigiano Reggiano. What comes out of the oven is still one of the greatest pizzas in the city. It’s the pie that sells the most at Nonna, to be sure, and consistently draws the most enthusiasm from patrons.
The point is: Dallas is a pizza town. We have our own blend of everything here. We have our own melting pot that need not be compared with any other city.
We’ve got contenders that range from Sicilian-style squares by the slice at Pizza Leila to cheese-crowned, thick-cut Detroit-style slices at Thunderbird Pies. We’ve got high-profile names like Pizzana moving into town, and family-owned spots like Andrew’s. Big names like Cane Rosso and Zalat have become North Texas staples with pies like the Honey Bastard and the Pho Shizzle, but smaller names and pop-ups are making a big impact with creativity, too.
The Lakewood Brewery tap room, which has a menu designed by Goodfriend Beer Garden executive chef David Peña, offers a selection of pizzas using ingredients like shallot-infused oil, smoked brisket and Texas goat cheese on cracker-thin crusts. And Desmon Coleman of Hustle Town, a pop-up you can also find at breweries, whips up unique pies with ingredients like hot honey, smoked meats, confit garlic and more.
Some of the best pizzas might even fly you to another continent. How about SauceBros in Plano? There you’ll find Bangladeshi flavors, like ghee-bathed mushrooms or jura mangsho style beef, cooked low and slow in onions and chiles until it’s pull-apart tender, spread over a crispy crust and a pesto sauce beaming with cilantro.
At Far East Pizza in Richardson, owner Nidhi Mittal’s butter chicken recipe begins with tomato, onion, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, garlic and cashews, and concludes with smoking charcoal. It was an instant hit with lucky patrons of the office cafe she ran before the pandemic. Today, you’ll find those same flavors — the kind she learned from her mom and mother-in-law, like roasty paneer, tikka masala, and that cozy, smoky butter chicken — on a pizza crust.
At the corner of Main and St. Paul streets in downtown Dallas, Dino Santonicola is combining flavors you’d find in, say, Rome, with a nudge of local stuff. Santonicola earned his stripes as pizzaolo at Cane Rosso. His pizza may look like Rosso’s Naples-born kind, but Partenope’s is something else entirely. It evokes the old country with bright, smooth tomato sauce that tastes of little else than tomatoes, clouds of fresh mozzarella and Dallas-born ingredients like sausage from Jimmy’s Food Store. (The historic Dallas market’s blend of crumbly, spicy, fennel-forward sausage is always welcome.)
Partenope has a handful of gems, but the salsiccia e friarielli pie, which crumbles on that Jimmy’s sausage with smoked mozzarella and tender, peppery rapini, is a landmark combination of Rome and Dallas that you can’t find anywhere else.
But few pizza joints work harder than Zoli’s — the New York-style neighborhood joint that’ll ship you a “meat wreath” stromboli across the country. The Dope Sopp — made with hot soppressata, ricotta, and soppressata marmalade — won the 2019 Caputo Cup award in Naples for the best pizza. But it’s the little Texas things, the Dallas-inspired barbecue, that keep the pizzeria grounded: Try smoked brisket on the Meat Fight pie to experience a wild and wonderful blend of big, fold-with-one-hand New York slices and the wood-smoked aroma of barbecue. Ranch swirls are offered with reluctance.