One of the biggest culinary trends in Dallas right now is Detroit-style pizza, known for being thick and square, with a crust that's crisp and cheesy on the edge, and now there's a surprising new purveyor.
Called Big D Pizza, it's from Peter Colombo, owner of Alfonso's Italian Restaurant, one of the oldest Italian restaurants in Dallas. Big D is a ghost kitchen, a restaurant-within-a-restaurant that's operating out of Alfonso's, located in Lake Highlands' White Rock Center at 718 N. Buckner Blvd.
Colombo is a native of Detroit who grew up on the east side in a town called Fraser. He knows all about Detroit pizza first-hand.
"I've been working on doing Detroit-style pizza for about two years, and we've had it on the menu, but I didn't make a big deal about it because I didn't want to turn Alfonso's into a pizzeria," he says. "But with it starting to become better known, and with pizza becoming more popular since the onset of the virus, I decided to just go ahead and do a full menu."
That menu includes:
- Small and large Detroit-style pizzas, ranging from $10 to $24
- Alfonso's original hand-tossed pizzas
- Chicken parm and meatball heros, plus an Italian cold cuts sub sandwich
- Garlic rolls
- Cheese bread
- Four salads including a Caesar and an antipasta with salami, ham, and brick cheese
Some naysayers have said there is no such thing as Detroit-style pizza, but Colombo says otherwise.
"It's not true that there is no Detroit-style pizza," he says. "The original in Detroit were made in cold rolled steel pans that held nuts and bolts from the manufacturing plants all over Detroit. Those steel pans worked the best to cook the pizza. It's an offshoot of Sicilian pizza, but they made them in these pans."
A true Detroit-style pizza also must use the delicacy known as brick cheese, an aged cheese with a tangy, salty, buttery flavor, similar to cheddar but with a high fat content.
"A lot of people use blends, but if you go to Buddy's or any true Detroit-style pizza, they use 100 percent brick cheese, that's what caramelizes around the edges and gives Detroit-style pizza the crisp, cheesy edges on the crust, for which it's known," he says.
"I experimented for about a year, then added it to the menu, but I didn't advertise it, it was just giving my customers another choice," he says.
In addition to the pizza, he's also serving some quintessential Detroit specialties including Better Made potato chips, the famous Vernor's Ginger Soda, and Faygo, the legendary Detroit soft drink company, in signature flavors that include redpop, rock and rye, and orange, all in long neck bottles.
Colombo opened Alfonso's in 1982, starting out in Casa Linda Plaza before moving to the White Rock Center in 1991. His customers are loyalists and he also has steady catering jobs that have helped him weather the virus.
"My dining room isn't doing that much, most of what we're doing is carry-out and to-go," he says. "I never wanted 10 locations, I have one place and I'm happy. Alfonso's is still trucking along after 38 years."