Checking out Russo’s Coal-Fired Pizzeria, serious new pizza place in Richardson
Posted: Thu, 28 May 2009 11:00 PM
Dallas doesn't yet get credit
from outsiders for its buzzy pizza scene, but we who live here know
that that past few years have been happy times for fans of good, even
great pizza. First Fireside Pies
, then Campania
, Coal Vines
, and Rocco's
in Fort Worth.
Add to that list Russo's Coal-Fired Pizzeria,
an exciting new spot that just opened in Richardson, at the new
Eastside "urban village" development right off US 75 and Campbell Road.
Russo's has one of the choicer locations in the development, visible
from the freeway as well as from the DART Red Line, which trundles by
every 20 minutes. Urban!
Russo's Coal-Fired Pizzeria, in the new urban village in Richardson.
Russo's is a Houston-based pizza chain that launched in 1992; in
2008, the company created a Coal-Fired division, of which this
Richardson branch is a part. Coal-fired is a selling point because it
cooks the pizza very quickly and add lots of character and flavor to
Bags of charcoal stacked convincingly at the door
Russo's uses a Wood Stone Fire Deck oven,
which does incorporate coal, though it doesn't rely on it exclusively
as a heat source. The oven has no door, said to be a plus for customers
who like to watch the progress of the chefs. Note that oven is
surrounded by gorgeous tiny irridescent tiles.
Wood Stone Fire Deck oven at Russo's Coal-Fired Pizzeria in Richardson.
Russo's has the same "fast-casual" format as Pei Wei: You place your
order at the counter and you get a number suspended on a clip. When
your food's ready, it's brought to your table. With the place being so
new, the logistics of this process haven't been resolved. One customer
left and never received her dessert, which still sat on the counter.
Another customer didn't take his number and a server wandered through
the restaurant, trying to guess who ordered two salads.
Russo's cashier is to the left and the bar and pizza oven are to the right.
The menu's large: salads and half a dozen appetizers such as
spinach-artichoke dip and calamari; flatbreads with toppings; panini
sandwiches; pastas; and pizzas, both regular and a thin-crust square
version. Toppings run from the "normal" sausage and pepperoni to
unexpected items such as feta cheese and fig.
Pizzas come in two sizes: a large, estimated to feed 3-4, and priced
from $18.95 to $20.95; and a smaller size, estimated to feed 1-2, and
costing $13.95 to $15.95. So it's not cheap.
But perhaps because they are still new and don't have a routine in
place, they didn't deliver orders in their entirety simultaneously.
However, they did deliver the food when it was hot; and most dishes,
whether pizza or pasta, seem designed for sharing. Atmosphere was
Ingredient bin includes fresh mushrooms and green peppers -- encouraging.
Pizzas were excellent, both because of the personality of the crust,
and also because of the quality and diversity of the toppings. They do
the rare but appreciated topping of a sunny-side egg (called here "edgy" and "on trend"); the only other pizzeria in town that offers pizza with egg is Cavalli.
Pizza with prosciutto and egg
The egg gets cracked right onto the pizza, cooking along with the
crust until it's just set; it's rich and unique. Russo's had a lot of
egg, probably 3 to 4 on the small pizza, along with fanned-out slices
of prosciutto that were chewy but not "rubbery". The combination was
like a clever spin on bacon and eggs. Tomato sauce was ladled on
discreetly; theirs has a cheery brightness with a pronounced hit of
Chicken pesto pizza had chunks of white-meat chicken, fresh spinach
leaves, pesto sauce, mozzarella and feta cheese; both pizzas were
slightly heavy on the oil.
But the story here was the crust: crackly and dark on the edges,
chewy in the transitional area, and extra thin -- too thin? -- in the
center. The rims had areas that were nearly burned, which added not
just good crunch but also a toasted-popcorn flavor with a yeasty
undertone. It gave the pizza an extra component, making the crust a
more complex experience than just a slab on which toppings were
Stromboli with marinara sauce
The same dough is used on their calzones, which looked absurdly huge
with their edges falling off the plate. There's one with Canadian bacon
and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, and another with pepperoni,
sausage, mushrooms, and so on, but you can also just create your own.
You get a ramekin of marinara for dipping.
Lobster ravioli was a revelation because it had palpable chunks of
lobster inside the pasta pockets. You don't usually expect anything
more than a puree of ricotta with a random lobster shred, and so to cut
one in half and find an actual piece of claw meat seemed
ultra-indulgent. The pasta came with an extremely rich mascarpone cream
sauce. A little of this dish went a long way.
Closeup of lobster ravioli
Desserts, said one of the employees, are Russo's recipes, made to
their specifications, but by someone else. The case was appealing with
its slices of Italian cream cake, white and dark chocolate cake, and
oversized chocolate chip cookies.
Dessert case at Russo's
New York cheesecake was tall-and-high with an impeccable fineness.
But the cake wasn't as dense as it looked. Cheesecake is such a
subjective thing. But the graham cracker crust was notably good, with a
good salt-and-sugar grit running through to give the bland cheesecake
New York-style cheesecake
Sinatra-esque jazz played in the background, a motif perhaps
borrowed from Grimaldi's. The walls were lined with patches of brick
including archways that held B&W photos of New York landmarks such
as the Chrysler Building. Tables and chairs were functional-grade but
there was a pretty red chandelier hanging in one corner of the dining
B&W photos of New York landmarks on the walls.
There's lots of good things to say about Russo's. It won the best pizza nod from the Houston Press, it's already drawing customers, and it's bringing high-end pizza to the east side of 75. Bravo.