Usually, when you have a good formula, you don't fuck with it. The pizza at Zoli's is widely considered by food-eaters in Dallas among the city's best (and is considered by our critic as the best), so it was surprising to some when the New York-style pizzeria made some sweeping changes to its menu, most notably, ditching the characteristic big, floppy New York slice. Mostly.
On the new Zoli's menu, you'll find three sizes of pizza. A 10-inch pie is the smallest option, and a 14-inch will comfortably serve two for dinner. The pizzeria is still offering their massive large pizza, which is enough to feed the offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys comfortably. Instead of the daily array of slices topped with sausage, cheese, and sopressata, though, you'll only find the daily specials served in their previous form.
Owner Jay Jerrier says the traffic at the pizzeria's Bishop Arts location was too hit or miss to sustain a by-the-slice business. "There would be some days (especially lunches) where we would be packed and sell all the slices really quickly -- but other days where the slices would sit," says Jerrier. "[We] were just not happy with the quality of the reheated slices after they had been sitting."
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The pizza at Zoli's has changed, but the recipe for the dough has stayed much the same. Working with Cane Rosso's master pizzaiolo Dino Santonicola and Zoli's kitchen whiz Lee Hunzinger, Jerrier only had to modify the pizza dough's proofing process to create a smaller pie with the trademark thin crust. "The recipe is essentially the same, but we adjust the yeast based on whether we are going to proof the dough at room temperature or in the walk in."
As for the finished product, there's no denying that a freshly fired pie is better than a slice that is cooked and then reheated when you order. The "tip sag" that New York pizza is known for is almost eliminated in a smaller slice, and the pizza tends to come out more evenly cooked. What New York-style fans lose in the nostalgia and tradition of a floppy slice they gain in a perfectly crisped, downright better pizza. According to Jerrier, most of the restaurant's fans seem to agree.
But not without some holdouts. "There are some people who are mad that they can't come in and get a $4 dinner. Now it's an $8 dinner and you're either super stuffed, bring a friend or have leftovers," says Jerrier.
The new system has also allowed Zoli's to serve pizzas to order that were generally only offered as daily specials. Hunzinger is constantly coming up with inspired pizza specials, which will still be available by the slice. Now, though, you'll be able to stroll in on any given day of the week and request a sausage bolognese pie made with Brian Luscher's sweet Italian links instead of waiting with baited breath for the restaurant to post their daily specials on Facebook.