“I just want to be a joint. A New York-style joint.”
That’s what owner Tony Leland says about his new baby, a laid-back slice of Brooklyn serving up Saturday Night Fever and Brooklyn Dodgers posters on the wall and gooey lasagna and crispy calamari on the plates.
Leland was kicking around in kitchens long before the words “chef” and “celebrity” were married. He started his Italian kitchen training working in his uncle’s Brooklyn restaurant. A “pizza man wanted” ad in the New York Daily News brought him to Dallas in ’81, at a time when there weren’t a lot of pizza places in Texas. Today, pizza places are plentiful, with some of them topping their pies with ingredients like frisee and fried eggs.
But not the new Tony’s Pizza, Pasta & Subs, snuggled between three bars on the eastern edge of the hospital district in Fort Worth. Here, things are reliably, comfortably, familiarly old school.
Place your order and pay at the counter, then grab your drink and a seat. Someone will bring you a basket of large, crusty rolls brushed with butter on top.
Our server forgot the salad that comes with the lunch specials, but once reminded, brought it quickly. Fresh, crisp lettuce was topped with olives, tomatoes and, naturally, a tomato-vinaigrette dressing.
The lunch-special lasagna slice was a good-sized rectangle that held together well, with plenty of cheese inside. Nothing remarkable, but filling, and it did the job.
The eggplant Parmesan sub ($6.99) was a find, if you’re into eggplant. Crisp bread, more baguettelike than Italian, housed large, meaty slabs of baked eggplant slathered with tomato sauce and plenty of gooey cheese. Moist filling was a great counterpoint for the crispy bread.
The big disappointment, surprisingly, was the pizza. We ordered one slice of New York-style pizza ($2.25) topped with pepperoni and green pepper. We’d been anticipating a pliable, foldable slice, but what we got was crisp-crusted and the peppers had an unappealing appearance, with some light green and some dark, as if some were fresher than others. Disappointed, we tried a mushroom and onion slice on another day. This time the veggies were packed on, which we approved of, but again, the crust was thin and crispy, not the bendable kind we associate with true New York-style.
Maybe this Tony has lingered a bit too long in Texas.
You should know: The lunch specials, served 11 a.m.-3 p.m., come with salad and bread for $7.25. Choose from lasagna, manicotti, spaghetti, ziti, stromboli, calzone, meatball sub or two “slices.”