An Italian GemNov 01, 2017 ● By Amy Richmond
Beneath crystal chandeliers, among fine upholstered chairs, servers clad in t-shirts and shorts blend effortlessly with the eclectic scene. Polished concrete floors, subway tiles, white walls and exposed pipes allow the finer elements in the room to “pop.” Polished copper mugs gleam next to a wide array of beers on tap, but the true star of the show sits quietly behind the bar in bejeweled splendor. An authentic wood-burning oven from Italy, retrofitted to look like a football helmet, gives a nod to the revered Dallas Cowboys, and this oven has some talents of its own. It silently reaches 900 degrees and cooks 14-inch pizzas in 90 seconds all night long.
Cane Rosso’s owner, Jay Jerrier, first discovered authentic Italian pizza while on his honeymoon in 1995 and began his quest to bring the unique taste of Italy back to the U.S. This was no small endeavor. He trained with Master Pizzaiolos (yes, that is their real title) at The Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), a nonprofit organization based in Naples, Italy. Its mission is “to promote and protect in Italy and worldwide the ‘true Neapolitan pizza.’” The organization offers intensive training on the Neopolitan technique of making pizza and promotes the professionalism of pizza makers around the world.
Since then, Mr. Jerrier’s authentic Italian pizza has been widely-heralded throughout Texas, with the newest Cane Rosso opening at The Star this past summer. Executive chef and master pizzaiolo, Dino Santonicola, from Naples, Italy, ensures that Cane Rosso continues to follow strict principles endorsed by the AVPN so each customer can truly have a taste of Italy, right here in Frisco.
Only the finest ingredients are used to make this thin-crust pizza which requires a knife and fork to consume — an intriguing dichotomy of casual fine dining. San Marzano tomatoes are hand-crushed, fresh dough is made daily and mozzarella is pulled in-house. Even the flour is flown in from Italy.
Whether you are sitting on the outdoor patio, watching footballs being tossed under The Ford Center’s big outdoor screen or catching the casually-refined scene inside, your taste buds will take a trip overseas.
To start our culinary adventure, our server recommended the Meatballs and the Jimmy Johnson Dip, the latter of which is only offered at the Frisco location. We added a Cane Rita (margarita) and a Frozen Limoncello, as well. My husband said the margarita was a really good one, while I sipped and savored my perfectly-balanced Limoncello. It was not too sweet and not too tart. The delicate frost on the glass made me smile and think of sunshine and summer days.
Our appetizers arrived in short order and with the very first bite, we quickly realized we were not eating ordinary meatballs. Tastefully drenched in sugo (Italian meat sauce) and sprinkled with parmigiana, the finely-ground beef and pork practically melted in our mouths. Two crostinis were included, to soak up every last drop of the sugo. The Jimmy Johnson Dip is deliciously warm spinach artichoke dip served in a wood-fired bread bowl, shaped like a football, of course.
After binging on the appetizers and drinks, we started perusing the menu for our main course. A variety of salads, sandwiches and pastas were offered, but we had come for Cane Rosso’s famous pizza. We had a tough time deciding between the 22 pizzas offered, and we later learned from the general manager that brisket pizza is added to the menu every Tuesday, as well. He also revealed the inspiration behind some of the names on the menu. Most items are named for Mr. Jerrier’s dogs, one pizza is named for a treasured mentor and a Frisco-exclusive is named “The Star.” I chose the pizza named after Mr. Jerrier’s first dog, Zoli, a red Vizsla, and my husband opted to go with The Star pizza.
We could not believe how quickly the items appeared on our table. The prized, three-ton Stefano Ferrara oven from Italy provided instant gratification! The Star pizza is aptly shaped with treasures of ricotta cheese hidden in its points. A kaleidoscope of fresh tomatoes sparkled amid the fresh arugula and pepperoni, with shaved mozzarella morsels on top. You could almost see the reflection in my husband’s eyes as he anticipated the first bite. In typical American style, he tried to pick up a piece with his hands and then remembered why a knife and fork are required. The thin crust was crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside. Such clouds of perfectly-cooked dough could not possibly hold all the weight of those fresh vegetables in mid-air.
The Zoli pizza is a standard round pizza, but carries some weight of its own. The first layer to touch the cloud of dough is made of hand-crushed San Marzano tomatoes. Why is this so impressive? San Marzano tomatoes are the most prized tomatoes of Italy, grown in the volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius to give them a sweet flavor. Sporting their own seal of authenticity, these are not your average garden tomatoes. Covering this delicacy was a blanket of house-made mozzarella cheese with ribbons of hot soppressata draped on top. Soppressata is a salume (air-dried meat) that hails from southern Italy. Depending on its variety and region of origin, this salume often has an oblong shape due to the curing process of pressing it between two sheets of linen. Soppressata has a more distinct and refined flavor that will make your typical slice of pepperoni hang its head in defeat. With finely-ground sausage sprinkled on top, this pizza produced a delightfully sweet and spicy show for the taste buds.
For dessert, a life-long love of s’mores enticed my husband to choose the S’mores Calzone. For me, the recommendation of the Ladybird, named after another Jerrier dog, provided all kinds of sugary temptations. The S’mores Calzone arrived like a crescent moon, dusted with powdered sugar, tempting us with its melted chocolate and toasted marshmallow center. The Ladybird was another 14 inches of round, flash-cooked dough, but this pie wears a plaid pattern of vanilla bean mascarpone, Nutella, cookie butter, crushed speculoos cookies and powdered sugar. Need I say more?
Cane Rosso provides an authentic Italian pizza experience right here in Texas. When you go, be sure to check out the murals by Clay Stinnett, that display some of Mr. Jerrier’s favorite bands as Star Wars characters. Cane Rosso is located at 3685 The Star Boulevard #200. Go to canerosso.com to see a full menu and plan your visit.