Taverna Rossa: Much More Than a Pizzeria

Much More Than a Pizzeria
The '33 BLT' contains marinated cherry tomato, basil, Texas infused olive oil, gorgonzola cheese, local bacon, and arugula.

The only thing more fun than the atmosphere at Taverna Rossa is wrestling with your dining companions over what to order. The best way to go is to order from across the menu and share. And don’t be afraid to take home leftovers. The goodness just kept giving for days after. Plus, reheating made my house smell fabulous.

First up, cocktails. I ordered the Deep South because I am a Bourbon girl. The drink is made with bacon-infused bourbon, bitters, sweet vermouth, fresh orange juice, and Texas honey. It is served with a strip of bacon. Yes, you read that right, a strip of bacon. It may sound like a crazy concoction, but it was a delicious blend of sweet and smoky and savory.

We started the meal with the ‘Mason Jar Trio’ of homemade dips and spreads (pimiento cheese, roasted chilies, and sharp cheddar; spicy cannellini bean; and local goat cheese, smoked almonds, and fresh basil); Ma’s Homemade Meatballs made from local fresh ground beef and sausage, all-natural marinara, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil; and the Killer Texas Sausage Queso with local Texas sausage, house pickled jalapenos, white onion, bell pepper, tomato, and garlic. (You can also add local Hamm’s Smoked Brisket to the latter, which, of course, we did.)

My favorite of the three was the queso to be sure. I don’t know whose idea it was to add brisket. But I have only one word for that addition – brilliant. The meatballs and dips were also tasty and creative. We also enjoyed the Baby ‘Berg Wedge Salad, comprised of candied bacon, Lemley’s tomatoes, local feta, and green garlic dressing. It was just before the holidays before we went and the tomatoes were heavenly, reason enough to eat this salad.

As for the main event, after much debate, we ordered three pizzas: the Farmer’s Pie with all-natural red sauce, Luscher’s sausage, fire-roasted red pepper, fresh garlic, white onion, cracked red pepper, house-blend mozzarella, and torn basil; the 33 BLT with marinated cherry tomato, basil, Texas infused olive oil, gorgonzola cheese, local bacon, and arugula (although we did it with mozzarella as I’m told many customers do); and the Smokey Pie with local smoked brisket, local bacon, white onion , house-blended mozzarella, cheddar, and optional goat cheese.

There is simply no point in picking a favorite. I loved them all and all for one reason: flavor variety. Each pie is so well-balanced flavor and texture-wise. It was more like eating a tasty science experiment then simply enjoying a slice.

As if that wasn’t enough, we also had the shells and cheese with jumbo shells, Alfredo sauce, mozzarella, Texas cheddar, fontina, and bread crumbs with the option to add local bacon or all-natural chicken. I was expecting it to be good. What I wasn’t expecting was to create a new personal craving. But that’s exactly what happened. The blending of cheeses combined with the chicken had me going back for taste after taste. Even if I didn’t love the pizza, I would be back for this alone. Somehow we also managed to order dessert, classic New York-style cheesecake, the root beer float, and a warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream on top. The cheesecake was classic, the float was delicious, and the gooey cookie was old school dessert heaven. Don’t miss it.

Taverna Rossa is the brainchild of Preston Lancaster, along with partners Tony Smith and Jimmy Cannon. The three wanted to create a place where pizza and beer were more than just pizza and beer. Mission accomplished. How? They got advice from a pro for starters, crafting the menu with help from Brian Luscher, chef/owner of The Grape in Dallas, elevating Taverna Rossa from the ordinary to extraordinary.

Then, they made sure that many of their ingredients are locally sourced, including smoked Texas brisket and applewood smoked bacon from Hamm’s Meat Market in McKinney; Lemley Tomatoes from Canton; Luscher’s Italian Sausage; and Texas Wagyu sirloin.

Add to that a full bar (with twenty-four craft beers on tap as well as an impressive wine list and a clever variety of handcrafted cocktails) and live music three to four nights a week, from rock to country to good old blues, and you’ve got pizza and beer 2.0.

If you go to Tavena Rossa, go hungry, go with friends, and go ready to get more than you bargained for. This is much more than a suburban strip mall pizza joint. This is craft, for sure. 

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