CultureMap Dallas brings back its Tastemaker Awards, an annual celebration shining a light on the city's top culinary talent. It begins with a 10-part editorial series, profiling all of those nominated for an award in categories such as Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year, Bar of the Year, and Rising Star Chef. Check out our page with all the nominees, voted on by a panel of judges consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts.
It'll culminate in a party on May 12 at Fashion Industry Gallery, emceed by comedian CJ Starr, where attendees get to dine on bites from nominated restaurants and find out who the winners are in all the categories. (Tickets are on sale here.)
This entry is our Wild Card, a category that changes every year depending on what's hot. In 2022, that's pizza. It was a year that saw more than a dozen new pizza concepts open, tossing out all varieties and bringing an unprecedented array of styles and options that show how magnificently Dallas' pizza scene has evolved in the last few years.
Here are our nominees for 2022 Wild Card – Best new Pizza:
Downtown Italian restaurant from Australian chef Johnny Di Francesco uses upscale authentic ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes in more than a dozen varieties such as the Supreme with pumpkin, arugula, pine nuts, and goat cheese. They ferment their dough and pastas for 48 hours in a temperature-controlled room. Entrees include branzino, chicken breast with pepperonata and nduja sauce, and mussels in a garlic-chili jus with chargrilled bread. Zero Gradi, a companion gelato shop, recently opened next door and another 400 Gradi will open in McKinney in 2023.
Style: Massachusetts bar pizza
Pizza concept in Denton is available as a pop-up on weekends at Herf's Denton County Taphouse, and worth spotlighting because of its one-of-a-kind angle: It does "South Shore bar pizza," a crispy, cheesy style that originated in the bars of the South Shore of Massachusetts where founder Steve North grew up. It's a rich pie with a crisp, buttery, almost biscuity crust; crushed tomato sauce; and cheddar cheese, cooked in a pan like Chicago-style or Detroit-style, with sauce and cheese spread to the edge, so there's no exposed crust, and with crisp Detroit-style burnt edges.
Fresh, worldly take on pizza on Lemmon Avenue is from veteran Dallas restaurateur Yaser Khalaf (Baboush, Souk Moroccan Bistro), no stranger to pizza; he previously owned LA Gourmet Pizza on McKinney Avenue. This is a small delivery and pickup only place, with pizza crafted through his international perspective. Chicken Shawarma has sumac & herb grilled chicken, goat cheese, and a saffron-garlic cream. The Mt. Gyro has shaved lamb and beef gyro meat, feta cheese, tzatziki crema, capers, arugula, and kalamata olives.
Prosper restaurant specializes in Detroit-style square-shaped pies with thick-yet-airy crusts and crisped cheesy edges. Owners David Kazarian, Jay Clark, Shane Lambert, and Robert Wechsler worked with chef and cookbook author Peter Reinhart, tasting dozens of variations to refine their recipe. They make their dough from organic flour and put it through a 24- to 48-hour fermentation process before it gets rolled out and topped with tomato sauce, Wisconsin brick cheese, and toppings. There are also five creative salads and starters such as red pepper hummus.
NEONY Pizza Works
Style: Artisan New York
Indie pizzeria is a new concept opening in Oak Cliff at 829 W. Davis St. from Alex Ham, a commercial photographer who previously owned a pizza place in Korea, and his wife Eun Young. Ham calls it "nothing fancy but good-quality pizza" — an artisanal rendition of NY-style pizza but with a lighter dough that takes 4 to 5 minutes, which means you'll get it a little faster than you would a traditional NY-style pie. The toppings are pretty standard — pepperoni, margherita, veggie — but the notable element here is the crust, which is aged 72 hours and is super-airy and crisp.
Style: Dallas Thin Crust
Lovers Lane pizzeria is from the same Nuccio family who founded Pizza by Marco/My Family's Pizza, a thin-crust neighborhood favorite beloved to old-school Dallasites. The pizza features their legendary sauce and trusted recipes, but with a more up-to-date business model including allowing for ordering and payment online. You can't beat pizzas such as the Augustus with EVOO, garlic, spinach, sun dried tomato, provolone, and feta, but their sub sandwiches including meatball and baked Italian with pepperoni, salami, pepperoncinis, Roma tomatoes, provolone, and parmesan are also divine.
Pizzeria is part of the Restaurants on Lamar collection at Omni Dallas Hotel, named for the iconic Pegasus on the hotel's front lawn. Their pizza is Neapolitan-style baked at high temperatures and topped with organic tomatoes and "craft" meats. Pizzas are 12-inch, perfect for the market, and include a Margherita, a Carne, BBQ Brisket, veggie with artichokes, olives, red peppers, mushrooms, spinach, and truffle oil, Buffalo Chicken, and Herb Chicken with chicken and white sauce. The bar is wine-centric, with wine on tap, 10+ wines by the glass, and seasonally inspired sangrias.
Motor City Pizza
Pizza is the foundation of this carry-out pop-up based in Lewisville with varieties such as a "Greektown" with black & green olives, red onion, spinach, tomato, and feta cheese, topped with Greek dressing. Owner Greg Tierney, a Michigan native who grew up eating Detroit-style pizza, is restlessly creative, offering seasonal specials with unexpected toppings such as mushroom gravy. In addition to the thick Detroit-style crust, he also makes some with a traditional-style crust, for those that are not deep dish fans.
PT Neighborhood Pizza
Style: Artisan thin crust
Offshoot of Dallas pizzeria chain Pie Tap uses a modern fast-casual service model where you bypass the usual counter-service and use your phone to order and pay. The menu bears a passing resemblance to Pie Tap, with a handful of pizzas plus sandwiches, sliders, beer, wine, and margaritas. They also have an option where you can get a slice and side, with a special oven that makes superior slices. One thing the two concepts do share is Pie Tap's pizza dough, which creates the light, crisp crust for which they're known.