Short Orders: Russo's Coal-Fired Pizzeria

Russo's Coal-Fired Pizzeria
700 E. Campbell, Richardson

I still remember a moment, back in my baseball-playing days, when I popped a hanging fastball straight up. An easy out on a pitch I should have ripped. I was more than a little annoyed, so as I jogged down to first I berated myself (quite loudly) with a lot of 'f' and 's' and things about mothers--much to the amusement of some children sitting nearby.

I feel the same way about driving on Central Expressway--and use pretty much the same language as cars slowly bump and grind along.

But Russo's sits adjacent to Central at Campbell. And if you're heading there from certain parts of town, the highway makes sense. You just hope the restaurant is worth the aggravation.

Really, it's not--although the pizza is fine.

Russo's specializes in coal fired New York style pizza--which means those looking for the greasy, pliable, Tony Manero pies will be disappointed. Instead, the crust carries the same charred, acrid, crunchy, chewy and quite satisfying character as the ones served at Coal Vines in Uptown. The toppings sometimes wither under the heat. For example, thin slices of Italian sausage on a "meat lover's" pizza curled up and died a bitter death.

But there are enough saving graces--the crust, the sauce, the roasted red peppers--for their pies to stand out.

Other items seem more like afterthoughts. Their arancini starts with the cushy warmth of rice, seasoned and deep fried, then yields to a nondescript (though rather disturbing) cheese-meat-sauce mush.

Apart from some colorful tile work around the oven, it's hardly an inviting space. Fortunately on my most recent trip through the area, a manager--maybe it was the owner--spent some time nitpicking employee faults. Hopefully he's a perfectionist unhappy with their arancini perfomance.

Russo's traces its history back to early 90s Houston, when some New Yorkers of Italian ancestry decided to open a pizza joint. They've franchised themselves across Texas and several other states--so essentially you're pulling off the expressway to eat at a chain restaurant.

If you live nearby, however, a pizza at Russo's is a much better idea than driving down to Coal Vines, battling valet traffic and waiting in line.