The wait was well worth it. For months, you could practically taste the anticipation hanging in the air as Dallas awaited the rebirth of Zoli’s NY Pizza Tavern, Jay Jerrier’s Oak Cliff ode to the pizza of New York City. The beloved sister of the fabulous Cane Rosso closed its Oak Cliff location in 2016 only to face numerous construction setbacks at its new location in Addison, delaying its planned opening by months. People were getting antsy. I was one of those people.
But Zoli’s 2.0 is now here with doors wide open, ready to receive every pizza patron that crosses her threshold. And let me just tell you, it’s as magical as you were hoping it would be.
At Zoli’s, New York native and head pizzaiolo Lee Hunzinger is in the captain’s chair. He’s honed his craft for years, always working towards the perfect NY-style pizza pie. And I’ll be darned, I think he’s found it.
You see, the menu at Zoli’s is stacked with notable bites. Appetizers are not to be overlooked (especially the fried mozzarella), salads are substantial, pastas are precious, and sandwiches are the sleeper favorite. But it’s that pizza, folks, that will really grab you by your rapidly-beating heart and never let go. In the month that Zoli’s has been open, I’ve visited them every week, and sometimes twice in a week. I simply could not rest until I’d tried every pizza on the menu.
When ordering pizza, you’ll first need to choose between the thin, round crust or the thick, square Sicilian-style version. Both are lovely, but I’m partial to the thin round. This is where Hunzinger proves he’s a master of his craft. The crust boasts a nicely crisp bottom, a slight char, with a pliable and slightly chewy interior. The “tip sag” one would expect from a Cane Rosso pie is missing in the Zoli’s crust.
And there are some real stunners here. Picking a favorite? It’s like that old cliche, picking a favorite child.
The “Brian Luscher” is excellent, topped with mozzarella, sausage bolognese and creamy ricotta. That bolognese is key. The “Lady Marmalade” is a wonderful white pie with large dollops of ricotta and sweet and spicy soppressata marmalade. Then there’s the “Lil’ Troy” with their near-legendary vodka sauce (a rich tomato base blended with cream and vodka), meatballs, cherry peppers, and breadcrumbs.
But if I were forced to only choose one Zoli’s pizza, I’m going with the “Christian Pescroni.” It’s not the flashiest pie on the menu. It’s essentially a souped-up pepperoni pizza. But it’s a pretty-much-perfect pepperoni pizza. There’s the lovely crust topped with housemade mozzarella and a simple, fresh tomato sauce. They double up on the pepperoni, stretching from end to end. They’re perfectly cooked until slightly crisp and form small red cups as they curve upwards at the edges.
Finally, (and here’s the brilliant bit) the jalapeño pesto. It’s less spicy than you’d expect, but the flavor of the pepper is there, harmoniously married to herbaceous basil and olive oil. It’s practically impossible to stop eating this pizza. You’ll plow through three slices before you even stop to breathe.
Go eat some Zoli’s. Order more pizza than you can eat, because there are no better leftovers than cold pizza. I’ve been loyal to Cane Rosso since their first days producing pizza, when Jay Jerrier was slinging pies from a mobile oven in the parking lot of a strip mall. But Zoli’s has split my heart in two; I love and cherish them both.
I’m a pizza polygamist.