The Neapolitan pizza is serious business. By most measures, hanging the VPN (Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana) logo in your pizzeria is a badge of honor, a statement that your establishment meets the strict requirements that respect the traditions of Neapolitan pizza-making. In DFW, Cavalli Pizza in Irving gained notice for becoming the first VPN-certified pizzeria in Texas (although owner Paolo Cavalli has since switched allegiances to the Associazone Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, which certifies the pizziolo individually and not just the pizza shop). Meanwhile, each of Jay Jerrier's Cane Rosso locations across the city also carries VPN cred.
Irving has a new player in the wood-fired pizza game, as Persona Pizzeria is ready to (forgive us) grab a slice of the pie with their new location in the Cypress Waters area of northern Irving. It’s Persona Pizzeria’s first foray into the area, but six other locations are scattered across the country. Less than a mile from Cavalli and 10 minutes from Cane Rosso’s Carrollton establishment, it’s also a bold location choice. Despite missing VPN or APN certification, Persona pledges pizza perfection, courtesy of chef and CEO Glenn Cybulski, whose resume boasts of Italian training, more than 112 culinary awards and moniker of World Pizza Champion.
The Persona Pizzeria space occupies the end unit of a newly minted strip mall, one of several that make up the Cypress Waters development. The restaurant is bright and contemporary in feel, and the de rigeur pizza oven is prominently displayed near the center of the restaurant.
Ordering will feel familiar to anyone who’s visited a Subway: Patrons join the line while the staff stretches out the dough for your pizza, then applies the sauce, cheeses, meats and vegetables of choice in front of you. The process felt awkward on our visit, as if the staff was still learning the ropes. Employees also appeared hampered by the assembly process; each pie is built directly on a wooden pizza paddle with what must be a 30-inch handle, and during busy periods, the paddles are awkwardly fanned out along the narrow prep area as they await completion and transport to the oven.
Persona Pizzeria’s pies are all of the 12-inch variety. If you recall the personal pan pizzas a particular chain pizzeria used to goad young millennial kids into reading with its Book It! program, this is similar, albeit with a much more advanced pedigree. Persona advertises its personalized pizzas to be made in 90 seconds or less, thanks to the powerful oven. The menu describes eight chef’s choice varieties for $11 to $12, or a custom pie can be built starting at $7.95 for the basic pie (crust plus sauce plus cheese), with additional toppings running $1.25 each. The toppings can also be added to your own custom salad at the same rate, if one of Persona’s three stock salads aren’t quite to your liking. On our visit, we availed ourselves of the carne pizza (shredded mozzarella, pepperoni, salami, sausage and minced garlic) for $11, and added caramelized onions for an extra $1.25. We paired the pie with a mixed greens salad ($4), tossed with vinaigrette and grated Parmesan cheese.
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Persona nails the Neapolitan style with their crust; ours arrived with the appropriate char to the edges and toppings, yet the crust was delightfully thin and chewy. Fresh mozzarella is listed on the toppings menu, but the stock chef’s choice pizzas all feature the generic shredded variety, albeit in copious amounts. Our choice of meats was unremarkable (particularly the sausage) and were overpowered by the minced garlic. The salad’s mixed greens were fresh and crisp however, and the sweet vinaigrette and savory Parmesan played well together.
Persona Pizzeria’s menu also advertises beer, wine and a range of hand-crafted baked desserts, although we saw no evidence of any of these items when we placed our order. Adding a beer or glass of wine with your pizza then finishing with dessert sounds great for dinner, but less so when returning to the office is on the post-lunch agenda. Given the location, Persona should have no problems drawing from the large population of office workers looking for a new alternative in lunchtime dining.
Persona Pizzeria, 8704 Cypress Waters Blvd #190, Irving