Zoli's NY Pizza Tavern More Than Lives Up To Its Pre-Opening Hype.

Zoli's NY Pizza Tavern
202 W. Davis St.
Oak Cliff

Ambiance: 2.5 out of 4 Trophy Unicorn Heads.
Food: 3.5 out of 4 Trophy Unicorn Heads.
Service: 3.5 out of 4 Trophy Unicorn Heads.

Despite fighting some computer issues and a typically rabid Facebook crowd on opening night, Zoli's NY Pizza Tavern now seems to be thriving, drawing decent crowds and packing the joint's small parking lot almost any time it's open.

Good thing, too, because Jay Jerrier's New York-style counterpoint to his already–popular Il Cane Rosso spot is damn good.

If you remember the Oak Cliff location that houses Zoli's from its Best Enchiladas Ever days, you'll recognize the unchanged layout of the spot immediately — down to the sneeze guards and registers, everything is in the same spot. That the lines moves in the opposite direction than they did at BEE is pretty much the only difference we could spot, as front-of-house layouit goes.

And, going through the line, you'll pass the assorted pizzas of the day for that day. Generally, there's an assortment of traditional New York-style pies — think big, thin, floppy slices — as well as one or two varieties each of the joint's so-called “Grandma” and Sicilian specialty pizzas. After ogling all the delicious looking options, you proceed to the register, order your slice(s) and sides, and get a number so the friendly staff knows where to bring your food.

On a recent visit, we tried all four of the New York-style slices on offer, as well as the plain “Grandma” slice, plus the restaurant's garlic knots appetizer.

The basics of the New York-style choices are all mostly the same. They boast a crust that's just the right amount of chewy without being tough, plus a generously seasoned, robust tomato sauce — except, of course, for the “white pizza” slice — and well-proportioned toppings. The sopressata — basically a less greasy, more flavorful and slightly spicier pepperoni — slice ($3) was a standout, bringing just the right amount of heat to the slice's outstanding basics.

Meanwhile, the “Grandma” slice ($4.50) — despite being topped with only cheese and sauce — is also terrific. The pizza's crust is thicker than your typical New York-style offerings, but thinner than deep dish, which, combined with the slice's generous size, easily makes it a meal in itself. The airy crust is cooked in a pan that gives the pie a flavorful caramelized edge, so do yourself a favor and try to get one of the corner slices. The “Grandma” is unique — at least in Dallas — and is alone worth the trip to Zoli's.

The garlic knots ($6), on the other hand, aren't unique all that unique. In fact, they're reminiscent of the dough balls from the old Bishop Arts spot Vitto. Still, they're quite good. You can't really go wrong with generous knots of bread topped with olive oil, garlic and a nice, spicy touch of crushed red pepper flakes. The serving size is generous too — you could easily share an order with three friends — so the price is reasonable.

Really, Zoli's is just what Oak Cliff needed: a pizza joint a bit more low-key than Eno's and bit less mercurial than Oak Cliff Pizza. The pies are good, the staff is friendly and there's a unicorn head trophy on the wall.

Seriously: What more could you need?

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