What a delightful experience I shared with a coworker over legitimate NY style coal oven pie while at Coal Vines. Coal Vines is a very hip pizza and wine bar concept that seems to get most things right.
It's owner, Joe, is from the Bronx and his inspiration was John's. It is his third restaurant and his most successful to date. He had two coal fired ovens built back in May and has been pumping out a pie superior to Grimaldi's and probably better than Patsy's ever since. He uses only one above average ingredient to produce the best pizza I have had in Big D.
Which of his ingredients were better than the run-of-the-mill NY pizzeria? It wasn't the crust which was standard fare (bromated high gluten flour). It wasn't the cheese, sausage or any of the other usual toppings. They were all the same as is to be expected in NYC. What made Joe's pies better were his use of fresh tomatoes. They were were vine ripened tomatoes, rinsed by hand and had a delightful consistency to them which made for a delicious pie overall. A nice touch was his liberal use of oregano.
There was absolutely no basil in the restaurant nor misleading efforts on the part of ownership to proclaim authentic Neapolitan fare or some such nonsense as is too often the case when I go pizza hunting at a new place. Joe has nailed the coal fired NY style pie concept quite well and is proud of his accomplishment.
Prices were very reasonable for Dallas - $15 for a large Margherita with bufala. Compare that to the $144 lunch I had the next day with a client at "Craft" the swanky restaurant located in the rather fashionable and exclusive W Hotel. No alcohol included for that stratospheric tab either I might add.
The conventional knocks against Coal Vines are that it is very small (1600 sq ft) and routinely has a long line of patrons out the door. I'm told the wait could be a hour or two which could lead to an excessive wine tab. The cranky Asian hostess that everyone use to complain about has since been fired. The staff I encountered were extremely friendly. However it must be said that the smaller footprint leads to a very profitable venture by keeping unnecessary costs down.
I'm rating Coal Vines very highly because they have executed their concept nearly perfectly. They have managed to shake up the norm for a pizzeria with a very happening scene complete with valet parking, reasonable pizza and wine prices and an upscale interior featuring sophisticated music.
My rank order in Dallas would be:
1 - Coal Vines
2 - Fireside Pies
3 - Campagnia, Campisi's, and everything else...
Overall, I would have to tip my hat to Joe and say he is the second best pizzamaker from the Bronx. Only behind a certain fellow in Phoenix.