Let me paint a picture for you. It’s raining, but you don’t care because you’re tucked in at the bar at CiboDivino with a glass of jammy red wine in your hand. The weather’s not quite cold, but it’s cool enough that your favorite flannel shirt — the one that’s been hibernating in the back of your closet for months until recently — feels warm and familiar. Water is running in rivulets down an overhang before it joins the patter of rainfall in the parking lot, which you notice because the massive windows framing the bar are wide open. You’re sitting outside looking in, thinking things are looking pretty good, and that’s before a very good-looking pizza slides across the bar in front of you.
CiboDivino opened this spring, joining Ten Ramen and Cox Farms Market in Sylvan Thirty, the development that may always be known as the project that stole the skyline views from the bar at the Belmont Hotel across the street. Modeled after Dean and Deluca, the market and cafe is meant to be the sort of place where a customer would spend more than the cost of a dinner out on the ingredients to cook a simple pasta meal at home, a place to grab precooked meals or a pizza, and a place to have a quiet glass of wine at the bar. CiboDivino achieves all of these in a spacious and beautiful marketplace, but without a doubt, the pizza is stealing the show.
Daniele Puleo and Ryan Olmos are the two guys behind the pie. Olmos worked at Urban Rio in Plano before turning his life over to pizza, and Puleo, who has owned several Italian restaurants around Dallas and Fort Worth, has been making tomato sauce for as long as he can remember. The two joined forces in the new Sylvan Thirty project in West Dallas and watched as the Stefano Ferrara oven — an Italian import faced with gold leaf tile — was installed in the kitchen.
The same oven is responsible for Neapolitan-style pizza all over the globe. Una Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco, Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn, Cane Rosso here in Dallas and many other respected pizzerias rely on wood-fired Ferrara ovens to achieve authentic Neapolitan crusts. They bear the endorsement of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the self-appointed administrator of Neapolitan pizza authenticity, which has certified hundreds of restaurants that make pizza just so.
The pizzas at CiboDivino follow most of the rules, but Puleo and Olmos don’t seem bothered with labels, rules and numbered and embossed slips of paper. They focus on making pizza, with results that speak for themselves. The dough is made from fresh yeast, water and finely ground flour imported from Italy. It’s slowly fermented overnight, to help the crust achieve good structure and flavor. The sauce is made from raw tomatoes, which cook in the oven while the cheese melts and flavors meld. The temperature inside the oven dome can top a Vesuvius-hot 1,000 degrees and turn unbaked dough into finished pizza in less than two minutes.
If you want to split hairs, the finished crust is a little thick, but it bears those black leopard spots — the burnt bubbles that mark a properly cooked pizza. It arrives on a square sheet of cardboard, cut into six slices and topped with anything from figs to pepperoni and prosciutto. It’s absolutely delicious pizza, and according to Olmos, sales of the pies have completely taken over at the market.
It’s not for lack of options. Sandwiches fill a deli case, including a saltimbocca that pairs chicken, ham and cheese, a caprese with mozzarella and tomato and more. There’s a chicken salad made with sun-dried tomatoes folded into the mix, grilled vegetables and other sides, but while shopping for them you’re within smelling distance of that Ferrara oven.
Strolling the aisles of any grocery can be fascinating, and it’s no different at CiboDivino. Rows of dried pasta, jars of tomatoes, oils and condiments join a large wine collection and a few local beers. If you cook and enjoy Italian flavors, you might find yourself inspired here.
My favorite spot, though, is that bar. It’s a massive, square-shaped fixture tucked into the front corner of the market, sharing two exterior walls. When the weather is agreeable, or even when it’s raining, massive windows swing upward, opening the entire market to the outdoors. It’s a great place to sit for an hour or two with a glass of wine and a pizza or some other snack.
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And more offerings are on their way. Olmos says a pasta program is in the works and should be available this December. A few appetizers are in development, too. The hope is customers will come in to do a little shopping, place an order for something to eat at the register and then be sucked into an extended vino session at the bar.
Whatever you decide to eat, don’t pass up the tiramisu. Somehow, the dessert that is so often an abomination at Italian American restaurants across the country is actually delicious. The ladyfingers are moist but not soggy, the mascarpone is sweet but not cloying and the whole dish is gently infused with chocolate and coffee flavors.
The dessert case offers a spice cake, miniature pecan pies, tarts and muffins, all of which are good, but none of them come close to the espresso-soaked revelation sold in an aluminum takeout container. Don’t miss it.
And don’t miss what has become Dallas’ most unlikely pizzeria. Puleo continues to work to show his customers the many strengths of his new creation, but his pizzas outshine many Dallas-area pizzerias that specialize in the stuff.