Pizza with an Argentinian Twist (Don Panza)

14 Dec

When you are craving pizza, driving to an Argentinian restaurant in Oak Cliff probably isn’t the first option that comes to mind.  Should it be? 

The answer is no, not if you’re dreaming up a wood fire pizza, a thin crispy crust, a candle lit dining room, a long wine list, you get the picture.  But if you are up for something a little different, namely Argentinian style pizzas cooked on stone (a la piedra) with a dense crust and the option to BYOB, then try Don Panza in Oak Cliff.  Open for about half a year now, Don Panza serves up an interesting menu of pizzas, empanadas, and tacos amongst other things.  In the short time since its opening, the restaurant has garnered the interest of quite a few Dallas foodies.

On a sunny Saturday, I met up with a few fellow food enthusiasts for lunch at Don Panza.  For some reason, I was under the false impression that Don Panza was near the Bishop Arts District, so imagine my surprise when we pulled up to this brightly colored building on a primarily residential street.  The sign declares, “Don Panza Restaurant, Pizza, Burgers, Wings, Tacos.”  Hmm, restaurants that claim to do everything under the sun tend to not do any one thing well.  Skepticism set in, and the mood wasn’t helped by the tricky parking situation (if Don Panza’s small lot is full, feel free to hop a curb and park in the adjacent gravel lot).

Patio seating for the large group seemed appropriate on this beautiful Saturday.  The view of an auto repair shop advertising a tire sale from Don Panza’s sizable patio was less beautiful, but in a strange way, created a sense of haphazard charm.  With a refreshing horchata in hand, I tried to take in all the menu options.  Pizzas came with typical toppings like pepperoni or cheese, or slightly crazy toppings like BBQ chicken or Napolitana (Margherita), or really unexpected toppings like seafood or hearts of palm.  Empanadas came in more stuffing options than my mind could wrap around.  Just those two sections of the menu alone overwhelmed with abundant choices. 

Good thing I was with a large group willing to try anything and everything.  We started with a few varieties of empanadas.  Standouts include the spicy beef, spinach and cheese, and creamy corn with some kind of seafood.  The empandas had a lovely flake pastry-like shell, light and fluffy and not at all greasy. 

donpanza1.jpg

We had a bit of a wait before the pizzas made an appearance.  As the owner/waiter so eloquently phrased, it was an artisan process.  As it turned out, they really were worth the wait.

Pizza Napolitana with Blue Cheese:

donpanza3.jpg

Since we’re talking pizza, let’s start with the crust.  Don Panza’s pizza crust, in Argentinian style, is denser than pizzas of the traditional Italian style.  It is not thin, but the stone baking process gives the bottom a crispy finish.  The upper half of the crust, however, remains doughy and soft.  Pizzas are spread with very little (if any) tomato sauce before being covered in a thick layer of cheese.  Oh yes, this is definitely cheesier than even the cheesiest cheese stuffed pizza with triple cheese topping, a little too much cheese for my personal preference.  That being said, the blue cheese flavor on this Neapolitan pizza was pungent and absolutely amazing with the sizable bits of garlic.  Not a first date kind of pie, but a delicious indulgence indeed. 

Pizza with Hearts of Palm:

donpanza2.jpg

Hearts of palm on thick bed of cheese with a creamy, tangy, orange-colored sauce that tasted like French dressing.  Never in a million years would I have dreamed up this combination on a pizza, but it was mighty tasty.

We also tried the Pizza Mexicana, which was essentially all the ingredients inside a carne asada taco on top of a pizza.  What’s not to like about that?  Warning, it’s a little spicy! 

We wrapped up lunch with a couple of forgettable desserts.

Bread pudding:

donpanza5.jpg

Flan:

donpanza4.jpg

Empanadas and pizzas are clearly Don Panza’s forte.  I will probably pass on dessert next time. 

Don Panza is open late (closing hour is basically determined by when the last patron leaves) and available for private parties.  The service is friendly (though a little slow) and the food is deliciously unique.  Even though the owner opened this little establishment with the intention of serving just the nearby neighborhood, Don Panza offers a taste of the strongly western Europe-influenced Argentinian cuisine to a city that typically views South American dining as a gluttonous all-you-can-eat red meat feast.  Not that we don’t love our churrascarias, but the promise of tasty Argentinian pizzas and empanadas can certainly draw a crowd, too.

Rating: 4 / 5

Don Panza Restaurant
2850 W Clarendon Dr.
Dallas, TX 75211

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3 Responses to “Pizza with an Argentinian Twist (Don Panza)”

  1. Worzel Gummidge 12/14/2007 at 2:23 pm #

    Good review. I endorse your comments about the empanada’s and also like the hame & cheese flavor.

  2. luniz 12/17/2007 at 10:07 am #

    Yea we ordered but didn’t get that one, same with the ham or whatever and blue cheese. Good thing they only brought about half of what we ordered, considering how overboard we went. My favorites were the spicy (very mild) beef, the shrimp, and the corn. Thought the spinach coulda used more flavor or seasoning or something.

  3. Francesca 12/19/2007 at 12:44 pm #

    I heard about Don Panza from a fellow Yelper..thanks for the visual I want to check it out for sure now!! 🙂

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