All-American is a series that looks at beloved, longstanding North Texas eateries and examines their history while exploring how the food has changed – for the good or bad – over the years.
It may not be a well known instrument, but you can, in fact, measure time using provolone. At Scalini’s in Lakewood, you can figure out what era it is by noting what cheese stage they’re in: In the formative years, they began with the common, everyday provolone. Scientists may call this Provolone One. The second era is marked by an upgraded smoked provolone, and the third, in this great age of the Post-Foodie, is a creamier, buffalo milk provolone and mozzarella blend. This is the time of new provolone, and it’s when Scalini’s, a neighborhood joint since around 1986, thrives over on Abrams Road.
Pizza is their crown jewel, where thin crust gets sauced, loaded with their stretchy white cheese blend and cut into panels. They cook the sauce for “hours and hours,” says owner Luis Delafuente, using crushed tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, oregano and garlic.
“We don’t take anything out of a can and put it on a pizza,” Delafuente says.
Scalini’s situated itself into Lakewood in the late '80s and has changed owners a few times. It started as it is now — a casual eat-in or grab-to-go Italian eatery. In 1999, Luis Delafuente bought the joint from then-owner Joel Burnham. He renovated some, adding about 600 square feet and a few more tables.
“I’ve always known Lakewood was a great neighborhood,” Delafuente says. “This place had so much potential.”
Step into Scalini’s any day, especially during the dinner rush, and you’ll see the fruits of the potential: On a jam-packed block, the neighborhood continues to embrace it. I’m sitting at the counter that overlooks Abrams Road and mowing through their house salad on a recent visit. You know this old school salad: It’s the one that comes with an olive-oil heavy dressing and a big pepperoncini. A few folks near me are polishing off plates of ravioli.
I order one of my favorite guilty pleasures in the world (especially in New York): A thin crust pizza with lots of crumbled, fennel-flecked sausage, green pepper and onions. The cheese should stretch like I’m in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Think of Scalini’s pizzas like you would Campisi’s — thin, blistered crust with a thick tomato sauce and tons of toppings — but I’d argue that Scalini's is better. Their version of the sausage pizza isn’t all that extraordinary (it needed a good dose of red pepper flakes and Parmesan), but when you add a calming neighborhood feel and cold beer, great things can happen. At lunch, the pizza is just under seven bucks, and I ate all of it.
Chicken scalloppine, a quick and crunchy-breaded chicken with a creamy pasta, is a hotly ordered item, as well as pretty much anything with their pesto. They make the sauce every day, says Delafuente, with tons of basil, olive oil, pecans and Parmesan. The linguine is tossed in an over-the-top creamy pesto sauce. It could use a little less cream and a lot more pesto. That said, it’s makes for excellent drunk pasta food.
The joy of Scalini’s is more in what it feels like to sit on a stool at the counter, facing the kitchen with a titanic glass of wine. The kitchen bustles, always, dusting pizzas with flour and bubbling cream in pots, and you can turn to anyone for conversation. The food comes fast and piping hot, and what more does a neighborhood spot need to be? Does every restaurant need to rank somewhere on a list? Anytime I’m at Scalini’s, I feel like I could drop my phone in the garbage, and that’s how any Italian restaurant should be — whether the food tastes like Grandma’s or not.
Scalini's Pizza & Pasta, 2021 Abrams Road
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.