Campisi’s comes to Fort Worth with a certain swagger, and that’s understandable. It is, after all, Dallas’ original pizza, serving its distinctive oblong-shaped pies since 1946. Being such a long-running institution, Campisi’s has developed an ardent following as it has expanded to Plano, Frisco, downtown Dallas and now Fort Worth.
After all those years, it would be hard not to feel invincible, and the staff exudes an unswerving confidence that Campisi’s is still the pizza king, even though the pizza landscape has changed dramatically in Dallas-Fort Worth. Better pizzerias like Rocco’s, Fireside Pies and Cane Rosso have elevated the local palate and made us more discriminating.
But Campisi’s has its formula and sticks to it. That means an extra-thin crust with a crackerlike bottom, a simple tomato sauce with a noticeable acidic tang and toppings that are diced into small bites. Some, such as the mushrooms, come from a can, despite a larger trend elsewhere toward fresh and gourmet. Owner David Campisi brags that one of the strengths of Campisi’s pizza is that it will taste as good on the second day as it did on the first.
We liked the Greek pizza ($15.25 for small, $20.50 for large) well enough that there weren’t leftovers to test his assertion. Toppings were bright and flavorful, including diced tomato, red onion, quartered artichoke hearts, chopped black olives, and feta and mozzarella cheese. Next time, we’ll hold the mozzarella; the soft chunks of mild, melting feta were enough.
The signature starter is the crab claws ($9.75 for a half-order; a full order is market price), served in a homey white bowl with lemon wedges and butter. It was a typical rendition of the popular dish, with small claws partly shelled so you can grab one edge and pull the crab off with your teeth. The herb butter added flavor, but some of the claws were dried out.
A better recommendation is the quirky bruschetta ($8.95). Rather than the toasted bread slices pre-assembled with a topping that we expected, this was a do-it-yourself version. It came with a plate of crunchy toasts, marinara and giardiniera, a pickled mix of diced olives, carrot and celery. The marinara was warm and comforting; we alternated between dipping the toasts into the bowl and topping them with spoonfuls of the tangy pickled mix. This would make a fun snack to share, with an Italian Peroni beer; there is a full bar.
Our main issue with this dish was the price. A restaurant should make a living, but $8.95 for recycled bread, tomato sauce and chopped olives seemed, like everything at Campisi’s, to be a bit higher than it needed to be.
We were surprised by how much we liked the low-key Tuscan salad ($8.95) with its tender salad greens in a lively house-made vinaigrette with diced tomato, soft cheesy croutons, quartered artichoke hearts and diced cucumber. Tiramisu ($4.95) was a stunner: a neatly trimmed square of moistened ladyfingers set in a firm cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup.
If the Campisi’s menu hasn’t been upgraded, the decor has. Located in the Ridglea Village shopping center, the Fort Worth branch has a patio in front and occupies a large light-filled space with classy wood-plank floors and poster-size black-and-white photos showing the chain in its early days, celebrating the history of which it is so proud.