Sfuzzi is a comeback you might never have predicted. Founded in Dallas in 1987, it enjoyed a heady decade as a small but happening chain, before going bankrupt and folding in the '90s.
In May 2010, owner Robert Colombo revived it, opening a Sfuzzi on McKinney Avenue, where he found a second generation of diners ready to nosh on pizza and pasta and sip its signature frozen Bellini.
This second branch in Irving is more popular than the first, another reality that would have been hard to predict. This location off Texas 114 has seen a few clunkers come and go, most recently Republic and Las Colinas Prime. And yet Sfuzzi is rocking, with 30-minute waits on weekdays and longer on weekends.
It has mystique. Large posters on the wall give it a grand old New York pizzeria vibe. A foyer with satin maroon couches and a hostess stand makes you feel like a VIP; there is even a coat-check room. Its open kitchen creates excitement and action; if Frank Sinatra isn't singing in the background, he surely should be.
Careful appointments extend to little things like the napkins, a red-and-white plaid that feels like good cotton to the touch.
The crowd varies: girls' nights out, older couples sharing bruschetta and wine, office mates taking a break. If you're feeling flush, you can order a $39 rib-eye. But you can get a $10 chicken panini sandwich, too. No one needs to feel left out.
The menu has range: from familiar items like fried calamari ($8) to more innovative portobello mushroom "fries" ($8).
Salted garlic pretzel bread ($7) made a good snack to share at the bar. Two large, soft butter-drenched pretzels came with a trio of dipping sauces: spicy-hot wasabi mustard, raspberry chipotle jam and quesolike cheese "fondue."
Thin-crust pizzas are unquestionably good, from the simple Margherita ($13 regular, $18 large) to sausage rustica ($14 regular, $18 large) with roasted peppers. Sfuzzi is among the few locals to offer pizza topped with egg ($16 regular, $21 large), with bits of bacon and a sunny-side-up egg that oozes decadently when you slice it.
Pastas are generic but filling and affordable. Garlic rigatoni was a bargain at $10, and a sprightly vegetarian option combined thick pasta tubes with roasted corn, strips of air-dried tomato and diced jalapeño for a little kick.
A section of classic Italian entrees included a pristine chicken paillard ($15) -- basically a grilled airline chicken breast with the wing-bone still attached, over a bed of just-wilted arugula and sweet cherry tomatoes tossed in a vinaigrette.
Don't save room for dessert, as it was the weakest course. Caramelized banana split sliders ($10) looked fun to share, with three cream-puff-type pastries holding small scoops of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream, but you could hardly taste the difference between the ice cream flavors. Sticky toffee cheesecake ($7) had an airy texture and an odd, crumbly crust; we didn't make it halfway through the wedge.
Impersonal and distracted, the service wasn't a strong point, either. But we were allowed to linger with our wine -- a Domaine Ott Rose from Tuscany, in three accommodating sizes: glass ($13), half bottle ($25) and full bottle ($44) -- and dream of other comebacks we would like to see.