For the Love of Pizza
Feb 03, 2014 08:46AM
● By Anonymous
This month, we decided to exercise some truly investigative journalism skills in our quest to find the area’s best pizza. After polling Southlake Style readers on which pies they prefer, we tallied up the winners from seven different categories: best overall; best ambiance for date night; most family-friendly; most menu variety; best delivery; best Chicago-style/deep-dish; and best vegetarian options. Sweeping the competition was Armend’s, who grabbed four wins, while Coal Vine’s, i Fratelli and Mellow Mushroom each nabbed one. While combing through reader comments, one thing was obvious: Southlake loves pizza. Whether it’s the friendly counter service at Joe’s, hospitality at Fireside Pies, live music at Campania, thin crust at Mama’s, endless options at Pie Five or the many reasons why our four winners were chosen, there’s certainly no shortage of places here in Southlake to get a home slice.
Best Pizza, Most Family-Friendly, Most Menu Variety, Best Chicago-Style/Deep-Dish
Husband-and-wife team — and Macedonia natives — Mirxhan and Asim Seji first opened Armend’s off of White’s Chapel Blvd. in 1994, after moving to Southlake from Connecticut. Back then, Armend’s was a fine dining restaurant with a full bar and didn’t even sell pizza. After relocating six years later to the current location on Southlake Blvd., Asim decided to transform the restaurant into a more casual, BYOB environment that focused on delicious pizza and pasta. Now celebrating its 20th year, Armend’s is known for having some of the best Italian fare in the area.
Named after Mirxhan and Asim’s older son, who began working there when he was 14 years old, Armend’s makes their own house dressing (which Mirxhan says customers love to pair with practically anything on the menu) and only uses local produce. Meats come from Irving but are shipped from New Jersey and New York, so all dishes are truly East Coast authentic. Armend says many of the restaurant’s loyal customers are families who recognize the passion that his family has for creating quality food served in a laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere.
“One compliment we always get is that we are consistently good,” he says. “We’re family, and that’s what people like.”
Best for Date Night
Developed by renowned restaurateur Joseph Palladino, Coal Vine’s reflects his New York upbringing, offering a casual neighborhood vibe supplemented by specialty pizza and its famous wine list. Coal Vine’s is particularly popular on Wednesdays, where a pizza is free with the purchase of a bottle of wine. Options range from pinot noirs, merlots and cabernet sauvignons to chardonnay and sparkling wine.
With décor that includes expertly stocked wine shelves, a plush red velvet wall dotted with long mirrors and a brick wall behind the bar complete with an expansive chalkboard and portrait of crooner Frank Sinatra, it’s no wonder people choose this cozy, intimate space for a pizza date night.
“We think of our guests as guests in our home and treat them accordingly,” says Paul Pardo, co-owner of Coal Vine’s in Southlake. “Our staff is what helps set us apart. They care, and it matters to them to do a good job.”
In its 27th year of business, i Fratelli knows pizza. The restaurant is still owned and operated by its founders, the Cole brothers — George, David, Mike and Darrell — who opened their first location in Irving. Known for their thin-crust creations famously cut into rectangular slices, the restaurant offers many signature pizzas, including the staff’s special (grilled chicken, artichoke hearts and Roma tomatoes) and the carne classico (pepperoni, Italian sausage, meatballs, Canadian bacon and hamburger). All of i Fratelli’s dough — their own recipe — is handcrafted every day, and salad dressings are also made in-house.
“They use real mushrooms, not canned, and have pepperoncini peppers,” says Tracy P., a reader who cast her vote for i Fratelli. However, the restaurant’s standout feature is definitely its fast, friendly and free delivery service. Take it from us when we say we had a very pleasant experience, from the timely delivery to the drivers’ hospitable demeanors and, of course, the hot pizza we immediately devoured upon arrival.
Best Vegetarian Options
Mellow Mushroom, which opened in Southlake in April 2012, is all about fresh ingredients — sauce is made in-house, most fruits and vegetables are local and the dough has a special (and secret) ingredient that makes it taste a bit sweeter. The restaurant is also big on gluten-free options and has an entire space in the kitchen devoted to preparing meals for those who can’t or choose not to eat gluten.
“We take the procedure extremely seriously,” says co-owner Sharon AuBuchon. “Servers leave the kitchen, scrub, put on a brand new apron, go to a different station in the kitchen to prepare the pizza, bake it in a separate oven and deliver it to the customers themselves.”
One of the most popular Mellow Mushroom pizzas is the Mega Veggie, which is packed with fresh vegetables like spinach, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, Roma tomatoes and artichoke hearts encircled by crust drizzled with garlic butter and parmesan. On any given day, diners can watch the restaurant’s skilled pizza tossers through the open kitchen as they prepare each perfectly handcrafted pie.