Slices of Heaven

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photography by Alex Lepe

From cardboard-boxed deliveries that generate childlike excitement to gourmet versions paired with appetizers and wine, pizza has a fan base that’s as diverse as its varieties. Now, in a town with a food scene still dominated by steaks and Tex-Mex, pizza possibilities are on the rise thanks to wood-fired ovens and fancy ingredients, like house-made mozzarella, candied jalapeños and even squash blossom petals. Nostalgic versions, with their garlic butter crusts and stretchy cheese, are still popular as well, as evidenced by busy buffets and multi-generational diners. In searching for the best slices in Fort Worth, we found that people are passionate about pizza. Some are loyal to neighborhood joints while others will drive a half-hour just to wait an hour more. This list includes 19 specific slices in Fort Worth proper and just one outside the city limits (located in nearby Arlington) that’s unlike any other we found in town. They range from chewy thick crust and crispy thin crust to saucy deep-dish and floppy with tips that dip. There are vegetarian options, too. Whether you hand hold it or knife-and-fork it, grab a slice and dig in.

Taverna – Gorgonzola Longtime Taverna customers might remember that the gorgonzola pizza was once topped with thinly sliced pears. It was a unique, popular offering that’s no longer on the menu, but the reinvented version, dotted with salty pancetta, dark caramelized onions, sweet and chewy figs and the same tangy globs of dolce latte, is a tasty rendition. Taverna’s thin crusts, wood-fired in a large, showpiece oven near the entrance, are crisp, buttery, and half-price during happy hour. 450 Throckmorton St., 817.885.7502, tavernabylombardi.com

Inzo Italian Kitchen – Christina Brix Pizzeria updated its name to Inzo Italian Kitchen around three years ago, but the pizzas are still there and still worth the traffic-heavy trek, whether to the Fort Worth original or to the Roanoke location. There are more than a dozen dusty, doughy pies to choose from, but the Christina shines for its thinly sliced grilled eggplant slices drizzled with a sweet balsamic sauce. Thick goat cheese adds tartness while basil shreds add floral notes. What’s most impressive is the eggplant – it’s not soggy and maintains crisp structure, even after a night in the fridge. 2747 S. Hulen St., 817.924.2749, inzoitalian.com

Prima’s Pasta & Pizza - Florentine With a soft, airy crust and a mountain of fresh spinach leaves – some that peek out from under mounds of melted mozzarella - Prima’s Florentine pizza is a refreshing departure from the usual tomato-based, meat-centric selections. It’s fluffy, fresh and almost resembles garlic bread with its lightly browned cheese and easy-to-tear dough. 6108 S. Hulen St., 817.263.7711, primasitalianrestaurant.com

Chadra Mezza - Victoria Named for a longtime customer who came up with the amalgamation of ingredients, the Victoria pizza is the most popular at this primarily Mediterranean eatery that’s also recognized for stellar oven-baked pies. The medium crust pizza, slightly charred on the bottom, is topped with crumbled sausage, fresh spinach leaves, chopped tomatoes, white onions, and thick bacon bits. Look for it on Monday nights when the restaurant hosts its pizza dinner buffet. 1622 Park Place Ave., 817.926.3992, chadramezza.com

Mellow Mushroom - Maui Wowie With dense, doughy, garlic-infused crusts offering thick, soft pretzel-like edges, Mellow Mushroom’s pizzas are popular for their far-out flavor combinations, like that of the Maui Wowie. This parmesan-dusted pie is heavy to hold, thanks to a slew of ingredients, including grilled chicken strips dusted with dark jerk seasoning, canned pineapple chunks, bacon, honeyed ham and pesto sauce. It’s a chewy mishmash of sweet, salty and spicy cut by the tinge of vinegar from sliced banana peppers. 3455 Blue Bonnet Circle, 817.201.9677, mellowmushroom.com

Pizza Snob - Italian Sausage with Alfredo and Candied Jalapeños With a lineup of elevated toppings like beer-glazed onions, roasted potatoes, Vermont cheddar and pulled pork, most patrons creatively build their own personal-sized pies at this Texas Christian University student favorite. But keep things simple and go for the spicy Italian sausage pizza on the specialty list, topped with crisp, crumbly sausage pieces (not the usual soft, pea-sized pellets), buttermilk Alfredo sauce and candied jalapenos. The lightly bubbled, thin crust pie – creamy, sweet and spicy – is cornmeal-dusted on the bottom and delicately finished with a drizzling of olive oil. 3051 S. University Dr., 817.462.7662, pizzasnob.com

Palio’s Pizza Café - The King Popular for unusual toppings like roasted cashews with pineapple and cranberries and refried beans with taco meat, Palio’s has established a large fan base in southwest Fort Worth. The casual café is BYOB and offers a gluten-free crust, too. We like The King as a solid supreme-inspired option. It has the core meat trio of pepperoni, sausage and ham along with mushrooms, black olives, onions and a rainbow of bell peppers in red, yellow and green. Mozzarella cheese is browned by way of a conveyor belt oven, and crust is thin, flaky and soft. 4855 Bryant Irvin Road, 817.294.7254, palioscafe.com

Picchi Pacchi - Veggie Pizza Where downtowners go for pizza by the slice, Picchi Pacchi serves massive wedges that fill a paper plate in both thin and thick crust varieties. The veggie pizza diverges from the norm, which typically offers a medley of diced bell peppers, mushrooms and black olives, and instead features vibrant Roma tomato slices, fresh spinach and even plump broccoli florets if ordering the double crust version. Crusts are crisp, sturdy and satisfying. 512 Main St., 817.870.2222, dfwpicchipacchi.com

Partons Pizza – Bacon-Tomato It’s no wonder this Fort Worth pizza institution has built a loyal following since it was established in 1968. The cracker-like crunch of Partons’ crisp, thin-crusted pizzas are as addicting as potato chips, as evidenced by the bustling lunch and dinner buffet that packs the wood-paneled, low ceiling dive with in-the-know pizza buffs – mainly, really hungry men. Partons’ signature pie is the bacon-tomato – two-thirds of a BLT in pizza form, with fresh sliced tomato halves and crumbled bacon on a layer of mozzarella cheese atop a creamy ranch dressing base. It’s an inhalable, crave-worthy combination not found anywhere else. 2813 Cherry Lane, 817.244.5152

Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza – Carbonara Rocco’s elevated Fort Worth’s take-out and delivery pizza scene when it opened 10 years ago, thanks to sauces made on-site and a wood-burning oven that puffed and charred crust edges. We like the white sauce-topped carbonara, a popular pizza made smoky with bacon, chunks of grilled chicken and sharp purple onion slivers. The dough is sturdy and yeasty – like crusty bread. 5716 Locke Ave., 817.731.4466, roccosfortworth.com

Hysen’s Nizza Pizza – Meat Lovers Pizza Sold whole or by the slice, Hysen’s Nizza Pizza’s meat lovers pizza is floppy, foldable and completely covered in sausage, ground beef, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, Italian sausage and mozzarella cheese. The black-and-white checkered tablecloth, New York-style pizza dive, which sits in a former Long John Silver’s spot, also has a convenient drive-through window, which stays busy with order pick-ups and slices to go. 401 University Dr., 817.877.3900, hysensnizzapizza.com

Chimera Brewing Company – Brie & Speck While primarily a brewery and bar, Chimera Brewing Company also slings some excellent pizza. Dough and sauces are made in-house, and recipes come from Italian-born founding partner Carlo Galotto. A stone oven produces Chimera’s super thin, crispy, almost transparent crust. Pizzas are very simplistic, some with just olive oil and cheese. The brie and speck (smoked prosciutto) pizza is a standout for its thin layer of bubbled brie, salty and crisp speck slices and freshly-chopped, aromatic basil. 1001 W. Magnolia Ave., 817.923.8000, chimerabrew.com

Cane Rosso - Honey Badger An off-menu Cane Rosso cult favorite, the Honey Badger, made with hot soppressatta, mozzarella made in-house, fresh basil and habanero-infused honey, was inspired by a Kansas City pizza shop that offered squeeze bottles of honey on its dining tables for drizzling atop slices, says owner Jay Jerrier. The addicting, floppy crusted, authentically Neapolitan pie (as indicated by Cane Rosso’s strict adherence to the pizza-making rules of the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana) is kept off menu, along with several others. Jerrier says he didn’t want a menu as big as The Cheesecake Factory’s, and he has fun providing options for insiders and regulars. 815 W. Magnolia Ave., 817.922.9222, ilcanerosso.com

Mama’s Pizza – Pepperoni It’s the glistening, garlic butter-brushed crust that makes Mama’s doughy pies a favorite in town, along with nostalgic memories of the Fort Worth institution’s storied past. The basic pepperoni, with its stretchy cheese, flecks of Italian seasoning and tiny pools of grease, is drippy and messy when hot, just like a good pepperoni pizza should be. Multiple locations. mamaspizza.net

Thirteen Pies - Eggplant With Goat Cheese and Basil Pesto With eggplant, goat cheese, fontina, dried tomato, red onion and basil pesto, this pizza is a clear winner. Even though this was the rotating "Thirteenth Pie" on our visit, we are hoping it finds a permanent place on the menu. Formerly Fireside Pies, the popular West 7th eatery is known for its bubbly, fire-baked, honey-tinged crusts, as well as lengthy wait times most evenings. 2949 Crockett St., 817.769.3590, thirteenpies.com

Gino’s East – Chicago Fire Waiting an hour on a table before waiting another 45 minutes on a pizza might seem a little ludicrous. That was the sentiment before we tasted deep dish from the Arlington outlet of this Chicago original. Opened this spring and still experiencing lengthy wait times, Gino’s East is worth the drive for its Chicago Fire specialty deep dish pizza, topped with spicy sausage patties, red peppers, red onions and slathered in sweet, chunky tomato sauce. The pizza is not piquant by Texas standards, but the crust, yellow in color, bready and porous, is perfect for sopping up any sauce that slipped off this decadent dish. Try to score seats at the bar to avoid waiting for a table, and note that the small size is more than enough for one hungry diner. Orders can also be called in for pick up. If dining inside, watch out for waiters navigating the crowd with hot pans in hand. Just listen for “Hot pie coming through!” 1350 E. Copeland Road, Arlington, 817.809.7437, ginoseast.com

Vivo 53 - Squash Blossom This newcomer to the Fort Worth pizza scene is already generating rave reviews for its cherry wood-baked, puffy crust that’s crunchy on the outside with a slightly chewy interior, kind of like sourdough bread. While pies with luxurious toppings like kobe meatballs, chile-fennel soffrito and fresh clams are on the menu, the squash blossom pizza with creamy burrata and sweet tomato marinara sauce is a standout for its delicate flavor and pretty presentation. 525 Taylor St., 855.202.1370, vivo53.com

Winslow’s Wine Café - Jim Bowie Doused in barbecue sauce and smoked cheddar cheese, Winslow’s Jim Bowie pizza is a peppery pie made fiery with raw, sliced jalapeños. Diced grilled chicken breast and applewood smoked bacon bits add to the backyard barbecue theme. Because of the heft of the ingredients, the creamy cheese and the chewy, dense dough, each weighty slice is thick and rich. 4101 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817.546.6843, winslowswinecafe.com

Buffalo Brothers - Buffalo Chicken It’s only fitting that a pizza and wing joint inspired by Buffalo, N.Y., would offer a buffalo chicken pizza, and the thick-crusted pie has all of the expected components – vinegary hot sauce, chicken and blue cheese. The sliced chicken shimmers with cayenne and butter-based Buffalo sauce, just like Buffalo chicken wings, and the blue cheese dressing adds a tangy kick. 3015 S. University Dr., 817.386.9601, buffalobrostexas.com

Campisi’s - All the Way Pizza The landmark pizza kitchen, which has been serving its signature oval-shaped pies in Dallas since 1946, opened its long-awaited Fort Worth location in 2013. Regulars know the All the Way Pizza, coated in sausage crumbles, salty salami cubes, sliced mushrooms, diced green peppers and chopped green onion stems, as the longtime fan favorite. The thin crust oblong pizza – crispy around the edges and soft in the middle – is cut into several rectangular pieces, making it easy to share. 6150 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817.916.4561, campisis.us

Do you like pizza? Then you're going to love this video! Featuring pizzas from Gino's East, Thirteen Pies, Vivo 53, Winslow's Wine Cafe, and Cane Rosso.