Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Rocco’s owner Barclay Ryall pulls one of his pizza-rific gems from his 7,000-pound, Australian-produced wood-fired oven.
Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza
Florentine pizza $14.99
Vege $15.99
Riviera $16.99
5 Cheese $14.99
Smoked shrimp lasagna $9.99
Roasted vegetable cannelloni $7.99
Baked ziti $6.99
Fired Up

A new Westside joint has all the trappings — and toppings — of a good ol’ fashioned pizza parlor.


Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza

5716 Locke Av, FW. 817-731-4466. Mon-Tue 4pm-10pm, Wed-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 11am-10pm. All major credit cards accepted.

There are a couple of places in town to get good pizza. The bad news: Most of them are fancy-schmancy restaurants.

As we’ve been saying seemingly forever: Someone could make a mint here by opening a good ol’ fashioned, genuine pizza parlor, just a hole in the wall with maybe a few cafeteria tables, some video games, a decorative map of the Old Country, a lengthy menu, and ribald goodfellas behind the counter, in front of the ovens, and beneath the canopies of twirling UFO’s of dough. The food also has to be good and inexpensive. Sound like a fantasy land? Well, in some northern cities, you can find two or three bona fide pizza parlors within a single city block — a single block. Heaven? Probably as close as some of us are ever gonna get.

Thankfully, no suit and tie is required at a newly opened Cowtown take-out/delivery-only operation whose pies are four-star restaurant caliber but whose soul is pure Little Italy.

Near the intersection of Camp Bowie Boulevard and Horne Street, in a Locke Blocke Shopping Center storefront, a fire burns. The flames that fuel the 7,000-pound, Australian-produced oven of Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza are visible from the parking lot. Coupled with fresh ingredients, a sense of adventure, and patience (on behalf of the cooks and customers), the method results in one helluva pie, probably the best in town — whether from a pizza parlor, restaurant, or the trunk of a friend’s car.

Rocco’s offers more than a dozen varieties of specialty pizzas, including the Clams Casino (white sauce, ricotta cheese, clams, smoked bacon, red onion, roasted red bell pepper, and romano cheese); the Cowtown (ranchero sauce, grilled beef sirloin, and romano cheese); and the Vaquero (ranchero sauce, grilled chicken, red onion, and poblano chile). Brooklyn’s also in the house, in the form of a sliced meatball-and-red-onion pie.

Of several pizzas sampled recently, each was not only unique but superlative. Other than the wood-fired cooking, what unites all of them is a solid foundation of preparation: high-protein, high-gluten flour, the kind that becomes formidable, non-limp crust; thick, hearty sauce that’s made fresh every day from a pot of onions and garlic simmering in olive oil into which herbs and seasonings are folded, with several different textures of tomatoes; and whole-milk mozzarella cheese.

The Vege was probably the most experimental pie ordered, and, boy, was it top-notch. All of the ingredients — artichokes, mushrooms, red onions, bell peppers, and spinach — were cooked just right and, together with the light, tangy sauce, creamy cheese, and firm but chewy crust, would have satisfied even the most die-hard carnivore. We kid you not.

The Vege was also a tutorial in the proper way to top a pizza. At most restaurants, a pizza that comes with three or more toppings arrives either light on the base of sauce and cheese or light on toppings — and, no, one greasy pebble of sausage per slice does not count as a generous topping distribution. The Vege was as good-looking as it tasted. Every slice carried a load of perfectly cooked veggies. Every slice, when separated from its neighbors and held aloft, retained its sturdiness. Every slice was a cornucopia of color.

The other pies were equally impressive. The Florentine — white sauce, grilled chicken, fresh spinach, mushrooms — was like a bowl of the best chicken alfredo in town, served on awesome pizza crust instead of a bed of noodles. With mozzarella, provolone, fontina, parmesan, and romano, the 5 Cheese was sinful but not a heart attack in the shape of a triangle the way that some other multi-cheese pizzas are — it was just gooey enough. The only problem was, well, the cheese. If you’re gonna pay for a specialty pizza, you want something more than merely extra cheese; you want, y’know, something special. The types of cheeses atop this one are too closely related in flavor to make for a distinct pie. Some cheddar and goat cheese would have added some zing.

One pie in particular suggests that Rocco’s chefs are somewhat delightfully deviant. Made with ricotta cheese, prosciutto ham, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and herbs de provence, the Riviera was dense, delectable, and decadent: Apparently the only way to quiet sun-dried tomatoes is to pit them against similarly loud, sharp, salty goodies. You can just imagine the Rocco’s guys sitting around one night and saying, “Why don’t we simply put all of our strongest ingredients on top of one pie and see what happens.”

Rocco’s also has pasta dishes, and they’re anything but peasant food — more like gourmet takes on traditional faves. The smoked shrimp lasagna had a nice kick but consisted merely of an ocean of red sauce, maybe one or two shrimp, and one thick, flat, slightly charred noodle that served as the roof. The dish was a hurry-up job, and if there’s one Italian specialty that you do not want to rush, it’s lasagna. What was Rocco thinking?

The baked ziti and roasted vegetable cannelloni were both a step up — the ziti was loaded with yummy cheese, and the veggies inside the cannelloni were generously sized and distributed, in addition to being actually detectable. (Traditional cannelloni, however, calls for gobs of ricotta, and a few heapings of the stuff would have made Rocco’s version a must-order instead of just good.)

As well-intentioned and decent-tasting as Rocco’s pasta entrées are, the pizzas are the place’s bread and butter. Stick with those, and, unlike a certain mafia don, you will not be highly displeased.

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