Dallas is going through an unparalleled creative spell when it comes to pizza, and now we have a truly unique new slice to embrace. It's from Popolo Red's, a new startup, and it specializes in pizza that's deliberately served cold. Gasp!
Founder Bob Shema describes it as an old-world Italian-style "cold cut" pizza, one that he grew up eating.
"I'm from a small town in northeast Pennsylvania, and there's a bakery up there that's been making it for more than 100 years," Shema says. "It's a style that's popular up there — they call it 'pitza.'"
Pizza that's served cold on purpose is different from the pizza you ordered last night and are too lazy to heat up this morning. The official name is "Italian tomato pie," and like so much pizza, it originated in the Northeast, in different pockets with different names, conveniently collated by Wikipedia, such as gravy pie and church pie in Philadelphia; red bread, strip pizza, or bakery pizza in Rhode Island; and tomato pizza or cold pizza in Montreal.
"People say, 'What's the big deal, I've had cold pizza at home,' but this is a little different," Shema says. "This is made to be eaten cold. Room temperature is the best. When it's freshly made, it's almost juicy, it has a nice texture. There's nothing like it here."
Shema is a former graphic designer who worked for companies such as the Dallas Morning News, but he launched this out of a passion for the product.
"I moved here in 1986, and we used to have friends who would come down and would bring boxes of the pizza," he says. "When I would go back home, I'd go to bakery and get a bunch of boxes, and I'd eat four slices before we'd leave the parking lot. I kept thinking, there's gotta be a way to get this down here."
He approached one of the places in the Northeast best known for it, but they weren't interested in expanding, so he decided to pursue it himself. His partners include an old friend from Pennsylvania who managed to wrangle a recipe, and an acclaimed local chef who remains unnamed to fine-tune. Last but not least, Shema approached La Francaise Bakery in Garland to get the crust — puffy, light, and crisp — dialed in.
"We've been working with [La Francaise owner] Chris Alves, who had the bandwidth and was willing to take on the challenge," Shema says. "It's a thick crust, almost like a focaccia, topped with tomato sauce, and very roughly grated hard Italian cheese. You bake it, then let it cool, and cut into rectangles. It's a great grab-and-go item, it has amazing flavor, and you can eat it immediately."
The pizza is cut in into rectangles, and brings to mind other thick, crusty, square pizza styles currently-trendy in Dallas such as Detroit-style and Sicilian.
But this is definitely the only one designed to be served cold.
For now, it comes in one basic variety, with tomato and cheese, although Shema doesn't rule out adding more varieties or toppings down the road. They've just started selling it through Profound Farms, for whom they make it for the weekends, and their next step will be to approach farmers markets. A box has eight slices and sells for about $14.