As the pizza revolution in Dallas-Fort Worth continues to spin, one major trend has emerged: the increasing popularity and dominance of Neapolitan-style pizza. Cavalli in Irving and Cane Rosso in Deep Ellum blazed the trail, and now this style of pizza is surfacing all over.
The latest is Southlake, where Apeizza e Vino, a new pizzeria-wine bar joins the ranks of shops making pizza the way they do in Naples, Italy. That means a thin, pliable crust; toppings applied with a light hand; ingredients sourced from Italy; and a cooking approach in which the pizza is exposed to high heat and baked quickly.
The standards of Naples are so strict that an organization, Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, exists to verify proper adherence. Those who pass the test (and pay a fee) get a VPN certification they can hang on the wall.
Apeizza isn’t certified, but its pizzas loosely follow the Neapolitan method. The restaurant is part of a chain-in-the-making founded in Colorado in 2007. The Southlake branch is owned by the DiBastiani family, who are new at the restaurant game but who tend to business with a proprietary pride.
One pizza maker had a temperature gauge that he pointed at the oven to monitor the temperature. Another washed down the counter diligently. Servers came around regularly with water, and a manager circulated throughout the dining room.
They’ve taken over the space that was previously Butterfly (and before that, a Melting Pot). Their remodel includes the installation of a domed oven made by reputable manufacturer Marra Forni, clad in the traditional mosaic style, with their name “DiBastiani” embedded across the top. It sits in the dining room, allowing customers to glimpse the pies as they’re being made.
The pizzas were good. The crust was slightly firmer than a true Neapolitan pizza, and closer to the substantial, crisp-bottomed crust most local diners find familiar. Toppings were more generously piled on. While there’s an argument to be made for authenticity, the reality for many people is that “more is better.”
Prices run from $10.50 for a classic margherita with tomato, basil and mozzarella, to $16.50 for a 14-inch pizza with prosciutto, arugula and porcini mushrooms. The quality of the toppings was excellent. Prosciutto was sliced paper-thin; in some parts, it was pleasingly chewy, while other bits turned deliciously crisp.
Apeizza makes its own version of the Italian mozzarella called fior di latte, and theirs was as it should be: light, fresh, snowy white. It was doled out in big dabs that melted together. Arugula was tossed on after the pizza came out of the oven, so that it stayed fresh and green. We ate it folded over, making it seem almost like a cheese and arugula sandwich.
Salads were so bountiful, they could serve as an entree. The Il Toscano ($9) offered a cool twist on a Caesar. Two large hearts of Romaine lettuce were grilled, giving them an appealing wilt and a charred flavor enhanced by a splash of balsamic vinegar. On top were thickly sliced beefsteak tomatoes, capers and shaved Parmesan. An avocado, cut into slices and drizzled with chile mayo, was an odd and unexpected addition, but appreciated for its richness.
The Caprese salad ($8) was an exercise in excellence and simplicity, with slices of those beefsteak tomatoes layered with identically thick slices of the house-made fior de latte, drizzled with balsamic and sprinkled with herbs.
You can get those same ingredients in a tomato-mozzarella sandwich ($8), along with arugula and a side of olives and pickled peppers. The bread, which is also served as a complimentary starter, is a house-made sourdough and very good, with impressive air holes and a meaningfully chewy crust. They also do their own meatballs for the meatball sandwich ($9) and sausage ($10), too.
Pastas were mostly old-school, such as lasagna and fettucine Alfredo. Pasta primavera ($10) was a bowl of spaghetti with a too-small allotment of broccoli, onion, roasted red peppers and tomato. Desserts included cannoli ($5) in a notable chocolate-shell version, and tiramisu ($6). But if you have room, get the peach pizza ($8), a pie topped with sweet ricotta, peaches, honey and shaved almonds.
For a place that has “vino” in the name, the wine list was generic and small. But prices were extremely low, with most of the bottles marked between $20 and $28, and happy hour specials that netted us a bargain glass of Cecchi sangiovese for $5.
Apeizza joins a parade of pizzerias in Southlake, including Coal Vines, Campania, Mellow Mushroom and Mama’s. But for Neapolitan-style, Apeizza’s the one.