WORDS BY ALYSSA STEVENSON, IMAGES BY WILL MILNE
Ten minutes south of 35E on 377 is the new restaurant concept by Sparky Pearson and Chef Chad Kelley. On the edge of Denton and Argyle is their new Italian food and pizza parlor dubbed Earl's 377 Pizza. The space is perfect for a night out with friends, family, or just to satiate your pizza cravings. Read on to find out what we can't wait to go back for and why driving past Mr. Frosty is sometimes worth it.
Sparky and crew have done a great job with the old fire station on 377, re-imagining what it could be and turning it into a warm, inviting and artfully crafted space. Complete with handmade furniture by the creators of One Light Workshop and the artistry of Dan Black, the space has been transformed into a beautiful family friendly restaurant with interesting details at every turn. Upon entry you can't help but chuckle at the 'banjo-lier and shovel-lier,' and appreciate the work that went into the re-creation of the Norman Rockwell painting over the bar. Luckily, the food lives up to the atmosphere.
We ordered the crawfish and artichoke dip as soon as we spotted it on the menu. It was all of the creamy, cheesy, spicy goodness that we could have imagined. The crawfish were perfectly cooked, and soft to the bite, with plenty of spice to accompany them in the sea of creamy artichoke goodness. We followed it up with the meatballs. Served alongside fresh soft slices of bread, a soft pile of parmesan, the trio of meatballs awaited. We scooped them out from the baker full of fresh tomato sauce, and oohed at the fresh pulls of mozzarella cheese as we divvied up the meatballs amongst our plates. One bite and it was love. Perfectly balanced, with fresh and dried herbs, moist, well browned on the outside and perfectly cooked through, these were the meatballs dreams are made of. (Okay, we know, it's odd we dream about meatballs, but we do.) Bite by bite we savored them, exclaiming over each other how great they were.
Next came the Italian Cobb salad, a pile of romaine lettuce with salami, grape tomatoes, pickled vegetables, salt cured olives, topped with cheese and lightly dressed, it was surprising, and gracefully crafted. Crunchy and bright, the vinegar was completely complimentary without being overpowering. While we waited on our pizzas we sipped on a half liter of red wine. The wine is served by the half liter, (approximately 3 glasses) in small hand painted pitchers collected from Italy. The dishes are beautiful, with blue floral patterns around the edges, which is juxtaposition from the heavy farmhouse industrial handcrafted tables and chairs.
The first of the pizzas to arrive was a classic - a combination of crushed tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. On the fresh from scratch dough, and fired in the high temp pizza ovens the classic was just what you want it to be - cheesy, fresh, and comforting. The classic combination is one that Earl's kitchen was able to pull off beautifully. Next we tried a pizza with roasted yukon gold potatoes, big chunks of thick slab bacon, roasted onion and rosemary. Another hit. Our third and final pizza for the evening was topped with a spicy prosciutto spread, ricotta and shallots. This was by far the most interesting combo of the night. The prosciutto spread had that glorious umami saltiness to it, which was balanced by the lightness of the ricotta and the mild flavor of the shallots.
The real belle of the ball though was sort of a surprise to us - the sausage hoagie. We went out thinking we'd only order pizza, but the hoagie stole the show. Don't get me wrong - the pizza crust was great - chewy and crisp and flavorful. But the bread for the sausage hoagie was spot on. Stuffed with locally made sausage, from a family in Ponder, generously doused in tomato sauce and topped off with mozzarella and provolone, the perfectly toasted bread soaked in all of the juices from the sauce and the sausage. We were incredulous after the first bite. This couldn't be real - this is it. This is the hoagie I've been searching for - the sandwich I've tried to make myself - and have done a pretty fine job- but now I've tasted the pinnacle of what I've wanted. Let's face it, I just can't flames in my oven at home. I can come close, but it isn't the same. Another bite, another groan of appreciation - until there was nothing left of the hoagie but crumbs and praise. If we hadn't been so full already, I would have been tempted to try out the meatball version. I have a feeling I'll be back for one very very soon.
Earl's 377 Pizza is located at 427 Highway 377 N Argyle, TX and opens to the public this coming Monday, May 23rd. You can find out more info on their Facebook page. Grab your family, friends and fellow meatball lovers and try them out. We'd love to hear what you think.