For years, if an East Dallasite wanted Neapolitan pizza, she went to Cane Rosso. But Pizzaria Testa’s arrival on Lower Greenville might change the eating habits of the neighborhood.
Pizzeria Testa opened quietly in June of this year, taking over the space previously held by Graham Dodds’ Wayward Sons. Walking into the restaurant, a diner can’t help but notice the two Vesuvio ovens in the kitchen, twin pinnacles of pizza baking power. The curved ovens are named for Mount Vesuvius, the volcano the looms over Naples, Italy and buried the city of Pompeii in the year 79 BCE.
The 7,000 pound ovens are two of the many items imported from Italy (subway tile, marble table, flour, wine, tomato sauce and more) and cook the pizzas in 60-90 seconds at temperatures nearing 1000 degrees fahrenheit. The ovens cool overnight, but are still at 300-400 degrees in the morning, when the restaurant roasts its vegetables in the relatively cool cookers.
They prepare a number of pizzas with both red and white sauces that range from cheesy to spicy to savory. The crust has the signature Neapolitan light crunch on the outside and soft inside.
Testa also serves a number of antipasti, including traditional Italian meatballs called polpette and a meat and cheese tray called All’Italiana. They have salads to pair with the pizzas and Italian baked sandwiches, and owner Rod Schaefer noted the wide selection of imported boutique Italian wines as well. Testa prides itself on quality ingredients from Italy, including tomatoes only grown in the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius, water buffalo cheese, and extra fine flour from Naples.
Prior to being a string of restaurants, the location was a plant nursery, and one of the dining areas nearest the patio (which is heated from the floor using radiant heating) is called the greenhouse, as that is what used to be. The restaurant also uses the old flower storage room as a walk in cooler. The space has a temperature controlled room for the dough to proof and room for 350 diners. There is also a windowless wine cellar room with no windows that can be reserved for group parties if guests are looking for that old world Italian feel.
Schaeffer comes from an Italian family (his mother’s maiden name was Testa), and the restaurant reflects his early memories of gathering around a table for home-cooked Italian meals at his grandparents’ house. The restaurant has a large table that sits adjacent to the kitchen so that diners can view and interact with the chefs, getting the full kitchen experience. “We want diners to gather around our table to make everyone feel at home,” Schaefer says.
The Testa name has an uncanny connection to the early days of pizza as well. Ignored by the upper class in its early days, the Queen of Naples banned the dish from her court in the 1700s, but her husband King Ferdinand I of Bourbon would sneak out into the streets to eat some pie in disguise. He couldn’t persuade the queen to welcome his favorite pizzaiolo, Antonio Testa, but Ferdinand’s son had Testa’s son build a pizza oven in the palace, and Neapolitan Pizza became il Cibo del Popolo, the food of the people.
Schaefer hopes to embrace Lower Greenville and be spot where neighbors come to eat and spend time together. “We want to be a gift and blessing to the community in which we serve,” he says.