Long before wildly popular Dallas import Fireside Pies came to Fort Worth, another Big D favorite, Taverna, debuted here in 2006. The latter set the bar for the importance of having a stellar wood-fired pizza just a phone call, or a dine-in experience, away. Over the past five years, Rocco's Wood Fired Pizza and Brix Pizza & Wine Bar have also won loyal followings, if not for their cracker-thin slices, at least for their authentic ingredients and crispy crusts with telltale blackened undersides. We recently decided to take an (unscientific) taste test to see which pizzas pack the most punch.
Best use of ingredients
Brix Pizza & Wine Bar, 2747 S. Hulen St., Fort Worth, 817-924-2749,
Brix introduced its authentic pies a couple of years ago, tucked in a space behind the then-Snookie's (now The Tavern) in southwest Fort Worth. Owner Daniele Puleo, who also has ties to Dallas with his Daniele Osteria in Oak Lawn, has infused the joint with an authentic trattoria vibe, and the restaurant has a comfortable bar, not to mention a wealth of goodies on the menu. We've had many enjoyable dine-in experiences here. (Have you had the Hell's Kitchen fries? Not to be missed.) But recently, we were in the mood to stay home, so we ordered three 10-inch pizzas to go. "Christina's favorite" ($11), a Margherita pizza topped with grilled eggplant, goat cheese, basil, shaved Parmesan and a balsamic reduction, was a standout. The eggplant were smoky and flavorful, and because of the balsamic reduction, had a subtle sweetness. Also popular was the prosciutto & spinach ($11), which featured those ingredients plus the balsamic "dressing," Parmesan and sliced almonds. The latter offered an intriguingly delicious chewiness. The Brooklyn ($10) -- mozzarella, meatballs, basil and tomato sauce -- might have been the most pedestrian of all, but also the tastiest. The meatballs were fresh and wonderfully seasoned; they weren't just an afterthought. Brix is generous with its ingredients. There must have been almost a quarter-pound of prosciutto on the prosciutto & spinach, not to mention several handfuls of almonds. And the pieces of eggplant on the Christina's favorite were nearly palm-size in diameter.
Rocco's Wood Fired Pizza,
5716 Locke Ave., Fort Worth, 817-731-4466,
Rocco's has been a west-side favorite since 2005. Owner Barclay Ryall prides himself on fresh ingredients (detect a pattern here?), and you can tell. What sets Rocco's apart from the rest may be its wide selection of delicious sauces. Pesto, ranchero, tomato, ricotta, olive oil and alfredo are available on any pie. We recently ordered a medium Mediterraneo ($13.99), and were wowed by its pesto sauce, a mix of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan. Topped by roasted peppers, kalamata olives and feta cheese, the pizza reminded us a little of another local pie, Mellow Mushroom's Kosmic Karma pizza, since it hit the same veggie notes. However, we feel more virtuous eating Rocco's lighter and thinner crust. Other times, we've been impressed by the simplicity of the restaurant's tomato sauce. Sweet and tangy, the sauce stands up to toppings well and doesn't blend into the background easily.
Taverna, 450 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth, 817-885-7502, tavernabylombardi.com
If you've ever been to Taverna, you've undoubtedly noticed the restaurant's star attraction, it's wood-fired pizza oven, located just to the left of the maitre d' stand. It's an impressive, authentic-looking structure, and no matter the time or day, there is sure to be someone laboring over pizza there. We recently found that true, even during a weekday late lunch, when we ordered the pizza of the day ($13), a chicken-and-artichoke concoction, advertised with pine nuts. We say "advertised," but when our pizza was delivered, they were nowhere to be found. No matter, the result was perfectly pleasing. The roasted chicken, cut into large chunks, was a nice counterpoint to the artichoke. On other occasions, we've tried the polpettine (meatballs and provolone) and the pizza blanca (prosciutto, arugula and Parmesan). Both are deceptively simple in execution and tasty options.
Fireside Pies, 2949 Crockett St., Fort Worth, 817-769-3590, firesidepies.com
One of the hottest tickets in town appears to be a table (if tables required tickets) at Fireside Pies, located in the über-popular West 7th development. Reservations aren't accepted, so expect a long wait for a table, unless you're an early bird. No worries, though. The bar here is festive and a great place to pass the time. After you do secure a table, you might have just as much trouble deciding on which pizza to try. We winnowed our choices down to the burrata mozzarella pie, the organic mushrooms & artichoke, and the house-made lamb sausage ($13 each). Seemingly straightforward, the burrata pizza was a winner, with its creamy cheese and roasted tomatoes. Similarly, the mushroom-and-artichoke pizza, with taleggio and fontina cheeses, struck the right balance of tasty toppings, as did the lamb pizza, with smoked provolone, jalapeños and pecorino cheese. What distinguishes Fireside's pizzas from the rest are their elevated ingredients. Not just mozzarella, but burrata mozzarella; not just provolone, but smoked provolone. Clearly, much thought is put into how these ingredients marry and meld. The descriptions of each pizza alone are a foodie's fantasy. We can't wait to try more, especially the Iberian, most likely a revelation of fennel salami, smoked provolone, soffritto, green olives, yellow tomato and manchego cheese. Clearly, we've moved past the days when Mama's Pizza was the only game in town.