One of the truisms that the RJG learned while working in SE Wisconsin and Chicago, is that while the area is more known for deep dish pizza, the reality is the thin crust still rules the taste buds of the local populace. And the RJG fondly remembers some great pies he devoured in Racine, Kenosha, and Chicago throughout most of 1997.
With that in mind, the RJG was thrilled to see a couple of Midwestern regional chains sprout up here in NE Tarrant - both in Keller in fact. Remember the RJG is pro small/regional chain and anti Public Company (when it comes to most restaurant concepts). First and foremost is Jet's Pizza, a Detroit area chain now making its way to various states in the Midwest and Southeast. I've only tried the Jet's Boat on the two occasions I've been, which is their version of the calzone. Two large inverted pizzas come with each order. I've tried the meatballs and the sausage, and both are excellent. Great tasting sauce, cheese, meats and, most importantly, crust. They're excellent, and a great deal for $7, considering it's two full meals. For my next visit, I'll try a traditional pie to see how it holds up against the competition. Jet's is take-out/delivery only and can be found on North Tarrant, about a mile west of US-377 (it may be considered technically in Ft. Worth, the border with Keller is a bit blurred over there). Now if we could only get a "Coney Island" chain...
2/20/13 update: There's also a Jet's location in North Richland Hills
*** 4/17/11 update: Marco's is moving to the west side of US 377 on North Tarrant. ZuRoma has moved into the former location ***
In a similar fashion Marco's, from Toledo, Ohio is another recent addition to the area. Toledo is less than an hour south of Detroit, so the region shares many similarities (in fact, the RJG worked in Toledo for a couple of weeks in 1998). We've only been once, and tried a traditional large pie with Italian sausage. This is some of the best sausage I've had on a pizza. Not the usual "crumbles" or sliced Sysco sausages, but rather homemade heavily seasoned rolled up sausages. I presume they're not made on site, but shipped in, but for certain these are made with much more care than the usual pizza sausage. Now I'm dying to try their meatballs! The sauce and cheese are delicious and very similar to Jet's (slightly sweet). If I had a complaint, it's that the crust was "doughy" on the bottom. Since I've only been once, I'm not sure if that's how they cook it, or it was a mistake. But to me it says the oven wasn't hot enough to obtain the crispness needed (though the pizza itself was plenty hot). Not a problem... after eating one slice in the car to test, I brought it home, stuck in the toaster oven - and voila - crispy crust! Marco's is on Rufe Snow, just south of North Tarrant, next to the Neighborhood Market. Like Jet's, it's also take-out/delivery only.
In part 1, we mentioned a recent revisit to Palio's, one of NE Tarrant's finest purveyors of the Italian styled individual pizza. But our first experience with this type (in North Texas that is) goes to Pazzo, over in Flower Mound (Denton County), about 15 minutes north of Grapevine. I want to say it was around 2004, based on a recommendation of Mr. Music. In fact, we went with him and his wife on the first visit. Subsequent visits were all outstanding, and we'd go 2 or 3 times a year. However, the original owner sold out, and it seemed to go downhill a bit, and we stopped making the journey. But Mr. Music (who lives closer to the restaurant) said it was getting better again, so the Mrs. and I headed over one recent Saturday for a nice lunch. I went for essentially the "meat lovers" pizza (though it has a fancy Italian name), and the wife tried the pasta (as you know, Mrs. RJG is rarely in the mood for pizza). Mine was very good, certainly on par with Palio's. The wife's pasta was a disaster. Over cooked and mushy, and she didn't eat it. The owner came out and apologized and didn't charge us for her meal. That's all he could do to be fair, and we were satisfied. Bottom line - stick with the pizza if you go. The RJG gives the thumbs up and we'll be back at least one more time this year.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Ti Amo, over in Hurst (off of Harwood a few blocks east of Precinct Line). Like many of the restaurants in the area, they are what I call "pizza pasta", rather than "Italian". And the pizza is of the New York variety. However, I was very disapppointed with their pie. Cheap ingredients, weak sauce, thin cheese, and a limp crust. There really wasn't anything good about it. To add insult to injury, I had to pay cash because they don't take credit cards. I understand why a taco truck can't take a credit card, but a restaurant in NE Tarrant? Sorry, no excuse, and it wasn't like the pizza was heavily discounted to compensate. We do not recommend Ti Amo, and it's not likely we'll go back.
OK - this post arrived about a month later than planned, but during the delay I added Marco's and Pazzo, plus we've been back to Jet's to ensure the consistency. I removed one place in Dallas, that I hope to eventually write about.