In our ever-evolving pizza scene, Il Cane Rosso has emerged as the latest benchmark, taking local pizza-philes to the next plateau of pizza nirvana.
The restaurant -- whose name translates to "the red dog" -- was opened in February in Deep Ellum by Jay Jerrier, a former technical salesman with a passion for pizza. That translates into some fine eating: His pies are not simply among the best in town, they're on a par with renowned pizzerias such as A16 in San Francisco and Motorino in New York.
It's the latest chapter for Jerrier, who was previously slinging pies from a mobile cart; on Thursday nights, you can still find the cart in action at Times Ten Cellars on Foch Street in Fort Worth. But Deep Ellum is a permanent location.
Jerrier found an old building that was a blues bar, and spruced up its brick interior and an adjacent patio that seats 50. In the center of the dining room is the wood-burning oven, a red lacquered dome imported from Italy.
From that oven come fragrant thin-crust pies, topped with dabs of creamy mozzarella and buttery-soft cured meats from New York's Salumeria Biellese, one of the finest charcuterie makers in the country.
No standard-issue pepperoni here -- instead it's hot soppressata, an Italian salami whose edges turn crisp as it bakes, and sausage from Jimmy's Italian market in Dallas. Mozzarella is made in-house.
The pizza dough is aged for two days, and you can tell: It has personality, with a yeasty flavor and pliable texture.
The edges are crusty and brown, while the center is thin and moist. You can use a fork and knife, or fold it in half.
Il Cane Rosso has a seal of approval from the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association, which means that its pizzas meet the specifications of Neapolitan-style pizza, including the use of a wood-burning oven that reaches 800 degrees. Jerrier also has the artisanal dedication that results in transcendent pizzas, and his staff seems determined to follow suit.
The pies are named after his daughters, the family dog and famed pizzamakers, such as the Paulie Gee ($15), a spicy selection topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, soppressata, caramelized onions and Calabrian chiles. The Delia ($15), with tomatoes and arugula, gets extra points for its sweet-and-spicy bacon marmalade. There's even a dessert pizza, the Bella Mela ($10), with apple slices, caramel and, in place of tomato sauce, a lush vanilla-bean mascarpone. It's fantastic for breakfast.
Appetizers, sandwiches ($10) and house-made pastas ($10-$15) are also good. The sandwiches, served on house-made rolls, are stuffed with deli meats, meatballs or roast pork. The Burrata appetizer ($12) has become a foodie pick. Burrata, a super-creamy mozzarella cheese, is paired with arugula and rapini, or broccoli rabe, a bitter green with a sharp, nutty flavor. The pairing is inspired, as the richness of the cheese mellows out the greens.
You don't see rapini on too many menus, and surely not for $12. That kind of thing attracts a sophisticated clientele -- everyone from Dallas mayoral candidate David Kunkle and his wife, former TV reporter Sarah Dodd, splitting a pizza and a bottle of wine, to Charlie Green, proprietor of Olivella's, the Park Cities pizzeria.
Pizza fanatics jockey for a spot at the granite-topped bar that wraps around the oven, so that they can get a front-row seat.