Firecrust Neapolitan Pizzeria, a Fast-Casual Pie Shop Near Knox-Henderson, Is Now Open

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The new paint smell is one of the dead giveaways that Firecrust Neapolitan Pizzeria just opened. The other is the staff, who are eager in a way that only fresh hires can be. This much becomes apparent as white-jacketed employees rush to man their respective stations and greet customers. With time, their zeal for topping pizzas will plummet in reaction to demanding customers, orders gone awry and inevitable marinara-based incidents. Until their customer service souls are crushed into oblivion, though, employees will treat you to an overview of how Firecrust works -- enhanced by Vanna White hand gestures -- without ever breaking eye contact.

The way it works is this: The pizzas are personal, one-size-fills-all. There are three bases to choose from: the margherita ($6.75), the marinara ($5.50) and the bianca ($5.75.) The latter is a no-sauce, "white" option for all the pizza nihilists out there, while the first two feature red sauces made from San Marzano tomatoes.

I ordered the margherita like a damn fool. The only real difference between the margherita and the marinara is that the former comes with cheese. This is Obama's economy, folks. Save yourself the quarter and get the marinara, but then ask your pizza-maker-who-never-blinks to add cheese for a dollar. That's what we call beating the system.

There are add-ons galore for those who prefer their pie to be more than a nod to asceticism. Meats such as anchovies, sopressata, meatballs and rosemary ham are $1 each. Cheese, as previously mentioned, is also $1 and includes ricotta, feta, romano and Daiya varieties. (Daiya is vegan cheese -- it works well for papier-mâché projects and lining hamster cages and also makes a delightful tortellini stuffing when combined with butternut squash.) Vegetables clock in at 75 cents each and include artichokes, eggplant, zucchini, arugula and jalapenos.

With so many toppings to choose from, Firecrust enables you to be the Palladio of your pie, but only if you're ready for that kind of responsibility. For those who are crippled with indecision there are a handy assortment of prix fixe pizzas. Take the Siciliana ($10.75), which shows no mercy to arterioles with a combination of "fire roasted Italian sausage, ham, fire roasted prosciutto, San Marzano tomato sauce, romano and extra virgin olive oil." Or there's the Vegetale ($9.75) whose "San Marzano tomato sauce, fio di latte, romano, marinated grape tomatoes, caremlized onions, kalamata olives and red onions and oregano" offers proponents of lighter fare something to rejoice about.

From start to finish, every part of the pizza assembly and baking process happens in plain view. Think Chipotle, minus the burritos and enormous popularity. First, a decidedly non-Italian man rolls out each pizza crust to order before sending the flattened canvas down the assembly line. Next it gets painted with sauce, drizzled with oil and topped accordingly. At the end of the line it is whisked to its final destination -- that is, one of the two red, bowl-shaped ovens. They use actual wood-burning ovens at Firecrust, though I am happy to report that my crust did not become fiery but rather beautifully golden brown, in about 90 seconds.

The end product is a fast-casual version of Cane Rosso. The crust is slightly chewy and floppy, with a bubbled edge and the occasional blackened blister. The marinara is bright, fresh and just barely sweet, offsetting the saltiness of the crust. When topped with some creamy mozzarella and a few leave of basil, you will understand why the simplicity behind Neapolitan pizza puts the American topping-palooza to shame. I'm also giving Firecrust extra points for earnest employees, keeping their basil in a glass of water and above all, abstaining from playing Dean Martin songs.

Firecrust Neapolitan Pizzeria 4447 N Central Expy Ste 100 Dallas, TX 75205

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