If you say "pizza" in Fort Worth, the conversation can't go too far without a nod to Mama's. It was among the first independent pizzerias when it opened in 1968. Current owner Jordan Scott took over in 2003 after having worked there for 13 years, and has expanded the operation to a total of eight branches, including one in Southlake that opened in February.
Mama's calls its pizza "East Coast style," based on the fact that original founder Ed Stebbins hailed from Connecticut. But over the years, their pizza has evolved its own unique style that could only be described as "Mama's." The crust has an unusual overhanging lip around the edge that makes it almost verge on deep-dish. It gets brushed with garlic butter, which gives it a golden, garlicky sheen.
The Southlake branch has wholly embraced recent additions to the menu, including a thin-crust option; a gluten-free crust; and some chicken items, including a barbecue chicken pizza topping and grilled chicken salad ($5.99). The salad was basic yet surprisingly good: The lettuce mix was snapping-fresh with the leaves torn into perfect bite-size bits. The rest of the ingredients -- cherry tomatoes, shredded cheese, black olives -- were mostly just pizza toppings, but it was a savvy repurposing and felt almost like a fresh, crustless pizza.
A medium regular pizza with chicken, pepperoni and diced green peppers was $13.50, and could feed two to three people. The crust was lightly crisp and airy, acting as a capable transporter for toppings without adding too much doughy bulk. This lightness combined with Mama's good, fresh toppings had an addictive quality. Even when we knew we'd reached our limit, we found ourselves reaching for one more slice.
The chicken was shredded into small chunks and not overcooked. The pepper kept its bright green color and gave the pizza some sass. If Mama's wanted to please the Southlakers even further, it might consider adding fresh spinach as a topping.
We topped our medium thin-crust pizza ($11.99) with every vegetable available, at 50 cents a topping, and got a zesty, irresistible pie with some spicy heat. That included black and green olives, fresh sliced mushrooms, diced green peppers and white onion, and slices of fiery jalapeño. They took a much-appreciated light touch with the mozzarella cheese, which made this a well-rounded and flavorful pie.
Mama's sub ($4.99) was a tasteful combination of deli meats -- pepperoni, ham and salami -- with mozzarella and American cheese, shredded lettuce and cherry tomatoes sliced in half. It came on a pretty average-quality sub roll, but Mama's gave it some TLC by brushing it with garlic butter and toasting it until it was warm.
Service was warm, as well. The atmosphere is informal, with a fast-casual service mode; you place your order at the counter and grab your forks yourself. The dining room is divided into two wings to make it feel more cozy; three discreet flat-screen TVs were set to sporting events. A pitcher of Shiner goes for $9 and is served with frosty mugs. We saw a company softball team commandeer one corner, rearranging the tables into a communal seating. One wall is plastered with shirts and mementos from local sports teams (go Dragons!). This Mama's is a good neighbor.