In the pioneer era, every small town had a general store for essential provisions. But in these pizza-crazy days in North Texas, it’s beginning to seem like the building block of civilization is a pizzeria.
That’s certainly how it feels with Earl’s 377 Pizza, a new restaurant in Argyle from the team behind Barley & Board in Denton.
Pretty much any route you take to get there is lined with pretty pastoral tracts of undeveloped land or ranches with grazing cows and horses. Arriving is a revelation, to find a human-engineered oasis with a patio and precise landscaping: gray gravel here, white stones there.
The interior is a fabulously raucous nexus of noise and activity, with all sorts of eye candy, from the chandeliers fashioned out of banjos to the big American flag hanging on the wall. Decor observes the hot trend of found objects, with lights made from perforated tins and a row of distressed foot lockers lined up over the pass to the kitchen.
Booths are inviting, made from broad planks of wood, and service from young women in shorts is friendly and attentive.
The menu is simple and mostly good, with a few appetizers, some salads and sandwiches, and about a dozen pizzas with above-average crust and gourmet toppings. They come in two sizes: an 11-inch pie is $12, and a 16-inch is $18.
The Yukon Gold was a standout, if for no other reason than it had potato as one of its toppings, a unique and welcome ingredient. The potato was cut into small, smashed chunks, and even better, some chunks had the skin still on. The pizza also had bits of bacon, roasted onion and lots of rosemary.
The meat pizza was a judicious blend with bits of meatballs (a house-made item that is also featured, oddly, as an appetizer), sausage and salami. Earl’s ramped up the flavor with cherry peppers, which were quite hot and spicy; we appreciated the kick they added, but if you’re heat-phobic, you’ll want to avoid.
There were a couple of memorable veggie pies, too, including the Farm Stand. with roasted fennel, and the Forager, with mushrooms, spinach and truffle oil.
For the crust, the kitchen mixes a little whole-wheat flour into the dough, which is an excellent idea, as it added personality and flavor. The bottom was crisp, with puffy edges and airy pockets in the rim that provided some chewiness.
Don’t be old-school like the table next to us, who ate only the part of the pizza that featured toppings; those edges are good eating, too.
There are three appetizers, including meatballs ($9) and a charcuterie board ($12) with some of the meats that appear on the pizzas. Lots of folks ordered the fonduta ($9), a melted-cheese concoction studded with crawfish and artichokes. But it wasn’t so great. Served in a flat bowl, the cheese had a browned surface that was hard to penetrate, and it came with wheat pita-like toasts that seemed stale.
But salads were good, including a Caesar ($7) with properly torn romaine tossed in a garlicky dressing, just enough to cover the leaves without overdoing it. Enjoy that with a carafe of house wine ($18), served in a pretty Italian flowered pitcher, and stand by for your pizza.