Tuesday, June 25, 2024 Jun 25, 2024
95° F Dallas, TX
Restaurants & Bars

Fortunate Son Brings New Haven Clam Pies to Downtown Garland

The Goodfriend Burger team traveled to Connecticut to research pizza—and renovated a historic furniture store on Garland’s main square.
A former furniture store on Main Street in Garland is now the newest restaurant in the Goodfriend family. Brian Reinhart

“Have you been on the square in downtown Garland recently?” a coworker asked me. I said it had been a couple years. “It’s really cool now. It’s unrecognizable from what it was before.”

This is true. And, even better, the square now boasts a terrific pizza joint from the team behind Goodfriend Burger House.

Called Fortunate Son, the newcomer focuses on New Haven-style pizzas, especially that city’s signature dish: clam pie. The crusts here are ultra-thin but crisp all the way from edge to edge. Pick up one of the huge slices and look underneath: there’s nice spotted char, even in the center. On top, clams, cheese, and rosemary complete the pizza.

David Peña, the chef behind Goodfriend and Fortunate Son, says that when the team decided on New Haven as their pizza style of choice (largely because there are so few Dallas competitors), he had to hit the books for research. “I joined Facebook groups, watched YouTube, watched documentaries, read books,” he says. Then the whole team flew to Connecticut to eat at the three most famous examples of the style: Frank Pepe Pizzeria, Sally’s Apizza, and Modern Apizza. (Sally’s, the newest of the trio, opened in 1938.) At each spot, Peña talked to the cooks, watched them work, and took notes on ingredients and technique.

“You have people who are diehard Pepe’s fans, you have people who are diehard Sally’s fans,” Peña says. “We were able to pick what we liked from each one.” Because each New Haven pizzeria makes their pies a little bit differently, the style is open to variation and creativity. Peña ran down some differences for me: Frank Pepe makes a thicker crust than Sally’s and uses a slightly less greasy cheese blend, he suspects a blend of fuller- and lower-fat mozzarellas.

The New Haven originals also use different sources for their tomato sauces, so Peña experimented with those and other brands: Stanislaus 7/11 canned tomatoes (not related to the convenience stores), Alta Cucina, San Marzanos. “We came back to San Marzanos really simply prepared,” he says. “We add some spices, salt, puree ’em, that’s our sauce. Pure and simple. You want that really nice, bright tomato flavor.” More experimentation dialed in the sourdough crust, which stays crispy all the way through without charring at the edges because of its long fermentation and carefully calculated hydration.

Fortunate Son’s pizzas come in two sizes: a responsible 12-inch and an absolutely huge 18-inch. Remember the calculation for the area of a circle: an 18-inch pizza is 12.5 percent bigger than two 12-inch pies. To emphasize the bigger pie’s main-attraction status, it’s served on a whole sheet pan, 18 inches wide and 26 inches long, as is done in New Haven. (UPDATE June 5: I corrected a math error with the percentage.)

The large Meatzilla and clam pies cost $34 and $35, respectively, making them maybe Dallas’ most expensive pizzas. That might raise your eyebrow, but, again, they’re bigger than two normal-sized pies, and loaded with primo ingredients. My table for four ordered $90 of food ($22.50 per person), ate like maniacs, and had leftovers at the end. I know a $35 pizza sounds like a crime, but a $25 per person fun dinner out with friends? Pretty great!

I know you are probably expecting a picture of pizza, but I didn’t get a good photo, so here are the meatballs with tomato, ricotta, and basil instead. Brian Reinhart

Our other pizza wasn’t a Meatzilla but the potato and pancetta pie. Instead of the petite cubes of pancetta you’ll find at a grocery, Fortunate Son serves up thick slices of ham folded across (much thinner) slices of potato. The potato still had just a bit of texture to contrast with the rest, and the pizza was complemented by rosemary and some, uh, chonky-cut green onions.

I asked Peña if there’s another item, besides the clam pie, that could be considered a New Haven specialty. He pointed out the “original,” a just-the-basics combination of tomato sauce, oregano, olive oil drizzle, and pecorino romano cheese.

“If you don’t have that, you don’t have New Haven pizza,” he says. “That’s the one that Frank Pepe would box up and take to factories and sell. That pie is the one that started New Haven pizza.”

Along with our pizzas, we got a chopped salad loaded up with health-food products like pepperoni, salami, olives, and cubed provolone cheese, and a little skillet of meatballs. Coming from a restaurant as brash as Fortunate Son, the meatballs are almost dainty. Dollops of ricotta cheese sit between them, too, so you can compose a bite of meat, cheese, and tomato sauce.

Before this space became a pizza joint, it was Garland Furniture, an institution founded in 1947 that had the very good fortune to finish its going-out-of-business sale in March 2020, literally days before the pandemic shutdown. The furniture store’s floor-to-ceiling wraparound windows remain, and at the back of the dining room, there’s a new wall of windows that allows you to peek into the kitchen and watch the pizza-making happen, from the huge dough mixer to the 650-degree oven. As for the dining room itself—well, it looks like the original Goodfriend Burger. The Goodfriend guys sure love a horseshoe-shaped bar. There’s an ample and partly shaded patio, too.

I visited on a Saturday night in mid-May, and downtown Garland’s new look was in full bloom. Kids were playing in water features, grown-ups were carrying Intrinsic beers in plastic cups, shops were open late—and there was an hour wait for a pizza at Fortunate Son. Reservations will be an option soon, but until then, you can use the text-alert system to wait for your table across the way at Intrinsic.

Peña tells me that the city of Garland approached the Goodfriend team about opening a restaurant, rather than the other way round. “We’re really proud that they approached us. Garland has spent a lot of time and money to revitalize this town square. They made it more walkable, they passed an open container ordinance, they have concerts, they’ve worked to make this area an oasis.”

And you can’t have an oasis without pizza.

Fortunate Son, 500 Main St., Ste. 100, Garland


Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

View Profile
Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.