By Clare Myers
There is nothing like authentic Italian pizza. We know this. We return from Rome vastly more educated and just the slightest bit more pretentious about everything from Renaissance architecture to the proper way to pronounce “ciao.” It is true: many of us, myself included, become self-proclaimed experts on pasta, gelato and, yes, even pizza. It is hardly a matter of debate that Italian pizza is in a class of its own. That is not to denigrate the knife-and-fork delights of Chicago and the paper-thin, massive slices of New York, but comparing the different kinds of pizza is akin to comparing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a Reuben. They are just not the same species.
Lately, though, I found myself missing pizza Napoletana, a tried-and-true classic that never gets old simply because it has been perfected. So when a group of friends suggested we go to Cavalli Pizza for dinner, I leapt at the opportunity.
Many University of Dallas students are familiar with the Neapolitan-style pizzeria, which serves up Romesickness-inducing pies in a casual, family-owned restaurant. When our large group arrived early on a Friday evening, we had no trouble finding a table, although the place filled up quickly with a mix of families and couples as the night went on. Customers walked up to the counter to order from the friendly, yet professional, staff and the pizzas were brought to the table. Perhaps it was the size of our group or the dinner rush, but our pizzas took a while to come out. But when they did, it was worth the wait.
Deciding to skip the traditional margherita, I split a large order with a friend. “The Dallas,” ($22 for the large) fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomato sauce topped with meatballs, homemade sausage, pepperoni and oregano proved much too large for us. There was plenty to take home, not that we wanted to. My first bite transported me back to Italy, and visions of cacio e pepe and carbonara danced in my head. Back in Irving, though, I was forced to face the reality that this pizza was not quite as good as the pizza I remembered. That is not to say, however, that the pizza at Cavalli was not excellent. Although a little too greasy (or perhaps olive oily) for my taste, every pizza I sampled was superb.
A friend ordered the Diavola ($11.50), which is covered in mini peppers, homemade sausage, fresh sliced jalapeño, basil and olive oil. Another tried the “Capriciossa” ($13), which features ham, mushrooms, artichokes and kalamata olives. Everyone at the table had high praise for every pizza we ate. The regular size pizzas are both substantial and delicious, forcing more than one member of the group into the much-dreaded debate over whether to take the last slice or two home or just finish it (let’s just say most opted to go for the gold).
The menu also offers a range of salads, soups, paninis and pastas, but nearly everyone at the restaurant was enjoying the pizza. Cavalli is an Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani-certified pizzeria, which means that it meets official standards for preparing authentic Neapolitan pizza. The place serves dessert pizzas as well, although whether these are prepared in line with APN certifications has yet to be determined. This uncertainty did nothing to detract from the charms of the dark chocolate and roasted hazelnut-topped “La Nutella” pizza ($11 for a large).
As a bonus, like many Irving restaurants, Cavalli is a BYOB spot. We brought our own wine, and the staff provided us with wine glasses and a corkscrew. It almost goes without saying that this rather Italian approach to wine drinking only added to the Rome nostalgia.
With the exceptional pizza and the buzzing yet laidback atmosphere — perhaps augmented by an agreeable glass of wine – dinner at Cavalli is quite a pleasant experience, and not at all a bad cure for Romesickness.