Buffets and their ilk traffic in vague notions of both value and your pants not fitting.
The more you eat, the bigger the pants problem.
But how best to determine value, especially if the place in question is an upscale churrascaria-esque entry, dedicated to padding your midsection with an onslaught of delicate thin-crust pizzas?
This is probably not the motto at the new Delucca Gaucho Pizza & Wine, an attractive Southlake restaurant ironically housed in a former Cici’s Pizza, but one step inside is enough to muffle even the most vociferous anti-buffet eater.
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Truffle oil perfumes the air and an antipasto platter practically takes a seat at the table, once you settle in. Mounds of tangled arugula tossed with the lightest of vinaigrettes, dollops of meats, triangles of manchego, handfuls of olives and a half-roasted head of garlic promise a meal of upmarket fare.
Drinks are not included in the fixed-price menu — adults are $18.95, children 6–12 are $12.95 and 3–5, $6 — but a caipirinha ($9) seemed to be in order. I loved the nuanced mix of cachaca (a distilled Brazilian liquor), limes and sugar — a Mommy Limeade, if you will — and it was a refreshing preamble to the parade of gauchos who roamed the dining room, eager to offer their permutations of pizza.
But first, something completely unexpected: A small cup of house-made lobster bisque arrived just before the pizza course. Velvety, spicy and redolent of summer despite the heat outside, it was terrific, slurp-able stuff. The restaurant refers to it as a “shooter,” but the serving size is more than that — a good thing. The kids took a pass on the soup; I wish they hadn’t only so we could have enjoyed their portions too.
But we were still destined for a big meal, and with just a turn the ticket on our table, the gauchos began to circle and then descend.
From four cheese with truffle oil to the sausage with barbecue sauce and jalapenos, the options run the gamut. Most were agreeable with their thin, crispy crusts buoying a variety of flavors.
Among my favorites included the Turkish lamb, which featured halal lamb, ground in-house, and thinly sliced purple onion and mint. Sumac and other middle-eastern spices coursed through adding big flavor to the small slice.
The chicken tikka masala struck as authentic as it could be, with its slightly spicy meat, and even the seemingly simple pepperoni, with its tiny pieces, curled and crisped in the oven, wowed those with simpler tastes.
Owner Evandro Caregnato and his wife Vanderleia Mallmann, Brazilian natives, know this style of dining well — and it shows. Before opening Delucca, both worked for years at Texas de Brazil, helping launch dozens of the steakhouses across the country. (The duo will open another Delucca in Dallas’s Design District later this year, and Caregnato says he’s planning a Fort Worth location, address to be determined, in 2019.)
Caregnato says his restaurant, open just four months, is the first-such gaucho-style pizzeria outside of Brazil. He got the idea for the concept after seeing how popular the style of dining known as rodizio de pizza was in his home state.
With an emphasis on fresh ingredients, such as the house mozzarella, which is pulled from curds each day and made into Fiori di latte, the end results are highly tasty. The dough is Italian Dopio 00, but there’s no interest here in being authentic Neopolitan. Caregnato likes to cook his pizzas a little longer in the wood-fired oven, meaning that toppings stay put even on the smallest of slices.
Not that anyone is complaining. By the time the dessert pizzas made the rounds—blackberry and marscapone, anyone? — bikini dreams, waistbands and preconceived notions about limitless eating had all been confronted.
We were paying the bill, but gauchos still tried to slip pizza on our plates, even as we raised our white-table-clothed napkins in defeat.
Delucca exceeds expectations and then some. I can’t wait to go back.
Delucca Gaucho Pizza & Wine
2001 W. Southlake Blvd., #103, Southlake 76092
Hours: Monday-Thursday 5–9pm, Friday and Saturday 5–10pm, Sunday 11am-9pm