Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Grimaldi's Pizzeria in Grapevine - Fort Worth Star Telegram

It's a sign of how robust our local pizza scene has become that we no longer just have pizza, oh, no. We have pizza in different kinds and styles: thin-crust, Chicago-style thick, Neapolitan -- and now New York-style, represented by Grimaldi's.

Grimaldi's is one of the best-known names in pizza; its roots go back to the early 1900s pizzeria in New York called Patsy's. It is owned by the Ciolli family, who have expanded it into a chain with branches in Arizona, Nevada and Texas. Grimaldi's entered Dallas-Fort Worth in 2007 with a restaurant in Dallas' West Village. It has since opened eateries in Allen and at Park Lane in Dallas; the Grapevine outlet is its fourth in the area but its first in Tarrant County.The Grapevine restaurant features the chain's signature '40s speakeasy decor, with Frank Sinatra on the sound system, brick walls and hardware-store touches such as the metal grating used as a room divider. The bar opens onto a cool, curvy patio with overhead garage doors as the opening.You can get a glass of Italian house wine for $4, and there's sangria in red and white. The feeling is fun and informal, with a young, hipster staff to boot.New York-style pizza -- like the kind you get on the street -- usually means large pieces so flat and floppy, you fold them in half to eat them. But this is a culture shock for North Texas, where we learned to eat our pizza with a knife and fork; folded pizza is so messy. Grimaldi's has adjusted accordingly, with a crust that is thin but not so floppy that you can't pick up a piece without the toppings falling on your lap.The big claim to fame at Grimaldi's is its use of a coal brick oven to bake the pizza. The coal burns at very high temperatures -- over 1,000 degrees -- giving a pleasing char to the flavor of the crust.The menu is relatively small: Three types of pizza, calzone, some salads, an antipasto plate and a few desserts. For the pizza, you start with a basic cheese with your choice of sauce, then add your toppings.The regular ($9-$16) came with Grimaldi's tomato sauce; its flavor was slightly sweet and it had a slightly chunky texture that evoked fresh tomatoes. The mozzarella seemed a little heavy for a thin-crust pizza, but cheese fans won't complain. And they'd really love the white pizza with garlic ($10 to $18), which combined a thick, creamy layer of mozzarella embedded with softened chunks of garlic.Our favorite was the pesto ($10 to $18), because the basil pesto tasted so fresh and lively -- which we enhanced by asking for it with a lighter-than-usual dusting of mozzarella.Each topping was a minimum $2 and some, such as the artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers, were $4. Fresh basil felt like a rip: It was $2 for basically a few leaves.But give credit where it's deserved, as the toppings were fresh and fabulous. Artichoke hearts were firm and plentiful. Jalapeños were sliced thick enough to add an appreciated jolt of heat. Italian sausage was mild with good fennel flavor. Kalamata olives still had a pit or two, and fresh tomatoes were cut into quarter-inch-thick slices, enough to keep some body but still melt into the pizza nicely. Anchovies were firm and fat.The crust was surprisingly pale. Thin yet firm, stiff rather than chewy, it did not boast the blackened finish you would expect from a pizza baked in a fiery oven. Instead, the edges were pale brown. That tells you that the pies didn't get direct exposure to the coal -- a more labor-intensive process, because the baker must keep an eye on it so it won't burn. Perhaps as the crew becomes more familiar with the oven, the crusts will evolve.If you want to skip the crust, you can find some of those same toppings -- mozzarella, red peppers, olives, salami -- assembled on the antipasto plate ($8 for small, $12 for large). There's also a no-nonsense quartet of salads, including the Caesar ($6 small, $9 large) and the Mediterranean salad ($7 small, $10 large) that are served in gargantuan portions.We split a house salad ($5 small, $8 large) with chopped Romaine, red onions, cherry tomatoes, red peppers, mushrooms and big green olives in a snappy vinaigrette, and the small was more than enough for two to split as a prelude to pizza.Desserts are worth the splurge, including an extra-firm cheesecake ($5) and a tiramisu that was creamy yet dense. There's even cannoli ($4.50), which you don't see too often around here, with a crisp 6-inch shell enclosing a filling of sweetened ricotta cheese, with chocolate chips on the edge. If you like the real deal, this is it.

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