Il Cane Rosso
2612 Commerce Street (Deep Ellum)
Or try its Mobile Oven that can be tracked down on their website. www.ilcanerosso.com
Price: $$ ($12-15)
Overcooked Summary: Innovative array of classic Neapolitan pizza.
About Il Cane Rosso & Neapolitan Pizza
Il Cane Rosso (which means “the red dog” in Italian) has been on my restaurant to-do list for quite a while. If you read many restaurant review blogs around Dallas, you are likely to have heard of it and its unique approach to pizza. Il Cane Rosso is new to the Dallas dining scene and brings authentic Neapolitan pizza to Dallas. “Neapolitan pizza” is actually a trademarked delegation given to pizzerias that meet the specifications of the AVPN, or Associazona Verace Pizza Napoletana, out of Naples, Italy. This is no easy task, everyone. Restrictions are enforced to guarantee freshness, quality, and Italian authenticity in the pies. Pizza dough must be kneaded by hand, for example, and must only use certain types of flour and yeast. The pizza must be baked for 60-90 seconds in a 485 degree celcius stone oven with an oak fire, and, oh, there are only three official variants: pizza marinara, pizza margherita, and pizza margherita extra. Talk about picky! There is no ranch dressing on the side, no “Meat lovers” special, and certainly no delivery van out front.. In other words, this is a long way from what most of us normally call “pizza.”
Service, Location, and Atmosphere
Summary: Needs Valet Parking. Good Date Spot. Vibrant, but not too trendy, atmosphere
Il Cane Rosso is only open from Tuesday-Saturday during certain hours, and takes reservations for parties of six or more only. We were a party of seven, and could only get a nine o’clock reservation on Saturday night. For a city like Dallas (this is not the New York dining scene) it is pretty rare that you can’t get a table at a decent hour, so we knew it must be in high demand. Deep Ellum parking is notoriously awful, and upon arriving, I noticed there was no valet stand at the restaurant. Minus one star, right there. However, we got a parking spot across the street in a $5 lot next to Twisted Root and this sign for Tucker’s!! We all know I love Tucker. So, be sure to bring a few bucks and park in this lot.
Our table was by the door and felt a little secluded from the rest of the restaurant. I could see things I loved right from our table, though – an open kitchen where you can see the pizza being hand-tossed, a wine bar with my favorite bartender C.J. (tip him well!), and a large patio that caught my eye. Our waiter was prompt, helpful with the menu, spoke a little Italian, and politely explained the “crude” Italian joke on the staff t-shirt (ask about it when you’re there! The translation is not kosher enough for my blog!).
The atmosphere was casual. Nearly every table was full. I felt a “see-and-be-seen” vibe to this restaurant since the patrons were generally well-dressed, well-behaved, and guzzling imported beers or swirling glasses of Pinot Noir. Perhaps this is just the Saturday night crowd. Il Cane Rosso is a casual restaurant, but still a nice restaurant. The lighting was bright but not overpowering, which is always a plus.
I could see coming to this restaurant for a variety of occasions – a business lunch from downtown, a large group of friends, or a cozy dinner date.
The menu was pretty daunting at first sight. Although traditional Neapolitan pizza only comes in three varieties, their selection boasts at least twenty varieties, two of which are “chef’s choice” or daily special pies. We ordered the following: One focaccia bread, one Caesar salad, a Bianca Pizza, a Che Cazzo Pizza, a Zoli Pizza, and a S’Mores Calzone for dessert. We also had a few bottles of wine passed around the table, which did not disappoint! There were no leftovers of anything for the seven of us. It was perfect.
Focaccia Bread: The presentation of the focaccia gets an A+, but I found nothing remarkable about the flavor of it. Rosemary, olive oil, a little salt. You could tell from the bubbles it was cooked in that ultra-hot oven they are known for. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t think it was worth the extra carbs to be honest.
Caesar Salad (Not Pictured) – this was a great Caesar. The $8 serving was plenty for seven people to pass around. The dressing was just how I like it : not creamy, but still flavorful. It wasn’t the best Caesar salad that I’ve ever had (Houston’s or Stephan Pyles may take the grand prize for that) but it was definitely what I wanted. I love having a side salad with pizza, so this just hit the spot.
Pizza Bianca: buffalo mozzarella, basil, sea salt, and olive oil.
The “white pizza” wasn’t as salty as the other two that we ordered, so it was a delightful companion to our other pies. The flavors of the cheese and basil were very smooth and fresh, especially without the acidity of a tomato sauce. The crust was crispy on the outside and thin and soft in the middle, but not so thin that you can’t pick it up with your hands. The table was 50/50 on “knife and fork” pizza or hand-held slices.
Pizza Zoli: Italian tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, sausage, and sopressata (“Italian Pepperoni”)
This pizza was well received by the table. The salt-cured sausages and pepperoni were not too oily and had just the right amount of spice. Plus, there were no veggies on it (not even onions)– so the “picky eaters” of the table were pleased.
Pizza Che Cazzo: Italian tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, onions, Calabrian chilis, mushrooms, sausage, and sopressata
The che cazzo was nearly everybody’s favorite pie. It is advertised as being spicy, but I thought the flavors were well balanced. Even with all the ingredients on it, the topping stayed firmly on the pizza and there was just the right amount of each. This pizza was nothing short of amazing – not too doughy, with the sweet onions and mozzarella balanced with the salty and spicy chilis and meats. I highly recommend.
Dessert: S’Mores Calzone
The S’Mores Calzone is chocolate and marshmallows baked inside of a thin-crust calzone. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves here. Clearly I disliked it so much I had to eat it all…..
Overcooked Bottom Line:
Before visiting Cane Rosso, my favorite pizza places in Dallas were Campisi’s and Coal Vines. This place is now at the top. My biggest complaint is their lack of a valet stand. Il Cane Rosso does not serve just any pizza, they serve the highest quality pizza that they possibly can. They take pride in what they do without being stuffy or overpriced. I learned a lot of new things about pizza and left feeling like I couldn’t get that meal anywhere else in Dallas. They hit a lot of food trends right now with their fresh, mindful style of cooking, their location in the “old school” Dallas neighborhood of Deep Ellum, and even offering a food truck that makes regular stops during the week. Genius!
Il Cane Rosso delivers one satisfying dinner that will leave you hungry for more. Go get yourself a pie!