First Look

ZaLat Pizzeria in East Dallas Is Now Open, a Little Weird and Really Good

Let's ignore the somewhat awkward pool table and the haze of cigarette smoke in the vestibule in front of ZaLat, the new pizzeria on Fitzhugh Avenue. Let's ignore the cast of characters hanging out inside as pizzas are delicately formed and slipped in the oven. Let's ignore the insane creations -- pastrami, chicken curry and other toppings that don't typically belong anywhere near a pizza -- so we can get to the most important piece of information: ZaLat is slinging some solid 'za, despite the owner being new to the business.

Keeping in line with the fact that nothing about this place is normal, customers are asked to order by text. My request was taken like so:

Me: How soon can I pick up a small pepperoni?

ZaLat: I can have a 14" pepperoni ready in 20 mins

Me: See you at 7:45

ZaLat: Can I get your name?

Me: Scott!

ZaLat: No prob

I showed up at 7:44, and my pizza was already waiting under the hot lamps. My bill was $12.98, and I was out the door a minute later, but not before reaching into the box and pulling out a slice. I tugged at it with my teeth while trying to sign my credit card slip. I remember nothing of the slice, but I felt warm on my insides.

Back at home I shifted into serious-evaluation mode. I grabbed a shot of the pizza from above, noting that small container of creamy dipping liquid. Then I picked up a slice and conducted a fold test. The pizza had a crisp curst but was still pliable enough to fold in half. The tip didn't droop at all, though I think this is mostly because the slice was so small. Further tests need to be conducted on larger pies, an effort I am excited to undertake.

You can also see that the crust has a decent amount of char and color on the underside. This isn't droopy, soft or soggy crust -- it's light and crisp.

At this point, I set down my camera and went ballistic on that pizza while sitting on my living room floor. I don't remember much -- the sauce wasn't too sweet; that spicy ranch dip can make crusts disappear in seconds; I loved that the pizza wasn't weighted down with sauce or cheese or toppings -- but I remember an overall feeling of contentment I imagine Buddhist monks experience when they find God on the backs of their eyelids. In moments, the pizza was nearly gone. But I managed to save two slices for my next test.

The next morning I set the burner to low beneath a stainless steel skillet containing my last two slices. I listened as the slices gently sizzled in the pan, reclaiming and then building on their original crispness. I watched the cheese and pepperoni began to glisten, as my slices came to temperature. You can see how the underside of the crust is free of moisture or oil -- two things that could cause undesirable sogginess. The pizza was even better the next morning. In fact, it seems perfectly normal to purchase one of these pies, just so you can reheat slices at home by yourself, one at a time.

ZaLat is still under a soft opening, but I get the sense the place is only gaining momentum. That's good news for East Dallasites who are craving decent New York-style pizza. ZaLat owner Khanh Nguyen is onto something.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz