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refurb + rustic + real modern = really good pizza.
by Kerrie Sparks // food-sparks.com
Neo Pizzeria is brave. They've got guts, chutzpah, big cannolis. (Actually, cannolis
aren't on the menu, but I'm building something here, just go with it.) The sister
cucina to Olivella's debuted last month in Victory Park - no easy feat as most
would assume tumbleweeds have been blowing south of the American
Airlines Center and the W Hotel for the past two years.
|However, something is stirring, there is a scent in the air. Maybe it's Neo's patio
planters, overgrown with basil and rosemary, whose aromatics are bringing
people back to the area? Any way you slice it, literally, people are descending
upon the quaint, yet modern eatery. And for good reason. The food is tasty,
sometimes rustic, and the interior space itself is a proverbial feast for the
discerning design eye.
|So, pizza, in Victory Park, we had to meet this brave team and find out more. We get
our answers and distinct perspectives on the project from architect Kelly D. Mitchell, AIA,
designer Ron Guest, and owner Charlie Green.
KS: How did the concept of Neo Pizzeria come about?
CG: Neo means both “Neopolitan” and “new.” New because we make a modified
Neopolitan pie, essentially what the first generation Italian Americans like Lombardi
and Tottono did to Italian pizza when they immigrated to New York City. They
Americanized the DOC Neopolitan pizza. That’s what we’ve done at Olivella’s
and Neo, but with Neo it’s like we’ve gotten out from under momma’s wings,
added some new pies and broadened our menu into rustic pastas and a trove
of deli sandwiches. New also because Olivella’s design is traditional and Old
World, and Neo has the trappings of New World.
|KS: How important was your location choice in drawing interest from the community,
and was this a key factor for your design and planning?
CG: We believe in Victory Park, long-term. We wanted a space that was warm and
welcoming where people would meander in and hang out. An important part of the
dining experience is the room in which you eat, the view out the window, etc. The
downtown view from the Slice Bar is unique and magnificent; the park view on the
other side is relaxing. Where can you dine and drink at an outside bar, counter, or
patio in Dallas that overlooks and is adjacent to such a beautiful skyline?
KS: When I first enter and glance over at the front bar, I see subway tile, exposed brick,
concrete, polished wood, and exposed filament bulbs hanging overhead. It’s a
completely delightful barrage of textures to my eyes. How was the color and materials
palette decided for the space?
KM + RG: We looked towards the Lower Eastside of Manhattan for design inspiration.
Using reclaimed wood for walls and ceilings, white subway tile, exposed filament
“Edison” bulbs, sealed concrete floors, reclaimed brick, exposed concrete columns
and steel structure, dropped ceilings, and found objects, we were able to create the
layering effect we were aiming for. The colors were drawn from a historical palette.
CG: Olivella’s in University Park imparts the feel of a tumble-down trattoria in Italy,
which works because it’s in a 1930s building. For Neo we wanted to convey ‘old
world’ even though we were putting it in a modern, urban development. So to
create a design that was congruent and be able to use elements that were not
anachronistic, we spent a lot of time in the East Village and Lower East Side of
Manhattan, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
|KS: I definitely see the yester-year charm of the space, like a retro GE refrigerator used in
the Slice Bar, mixed with rustic-modern elements like repurposed stained wood that forms
beautiful curves from wall to ceiling. What would you say is the design concept for the
space, and how do you classify this mixing of elements?
KM + RG: The initial design concept was to create a space that appeared to have
evolved over time. To accomplish this, we layered components, using old & new
materials and found objects. For instance, we installed the white subway tile over
old brick to create the sense that the use of the space had changed over the years.
By adding a design element like the curved wood furr-down in the Slice Bar, which
beckons to a sixties/seventies era, we added another level of the idea of evolution
and layering over time.
The concept behind the lay-out was to create two separate spaces using the same
materials, but in different ways. The Neo dining room is more rustic & warm, and the
Slice Bar is more ‘modern’ and light.
|KS: Can you tell us about some of the refurbished pieces used in the space?
CG: The front doors to Neo and Slice Bar are reclaimed from the Brooklyn Navy Yard,
when it was demolished a few years ago. The mirror frames outside the bathroom and
over main bar are reclaimed window frames from The Flatiron building at Broadway and
23rd. The 1930s GE fridge is from my house, but may go back because it might not make
sense for the space in the long-term. The hostess stand is from a car-repair garage. The
door for the storage space came from a demolished building in Ft. Worth, and the
bathroom doors are from an old courthouse in Texas.
KS: You carry the charm to the outside patio with planters full of overgrown basil, parsley,
and rosemary, as well as water bowls and biscuits for the pups. You feel very welcomed
before you even crack open the front door. How important were these exterior elements
to the design?
KM + RG: It was very important for us to create a neighborhood feeling for the residents
in the area.
CG: We are all about natural, organic, casual, and neighborhood. Customers should
feel like they would in a neighborhood place in Europe—we loathe pretension.
|KS: Now, about the food. In addition to repurposed design materials used in the space,
any sustainable or locally sourced ingredients on the menu?
CG: We source most of our ingredients from Italy, itself. We serve Delos Vodka and
Stampede Beer, which are local brands.
KS: I was impressed to find the sandwich bread and mozzarella are made by hand in-
house. What else might we not know from just glancing at the menu?
CG: We were started by one of the oldest pizza families in Naples, Italy. Our tomatoes
are from Italy, and we use an 80-year-old lasagna recipe from Calabria.
KS: For me it’s the black truffle pizza, but in your opinion, what’s the best thing on the menu?
CG: Regina Margherita or Buffalino Fresca. We will also run fish and meat specials
beginning in the Fall—unbelievable brisket and short ribs, out of which we will make
entrees and sandwiches.
|KS: The next best thing to pizza crust is _________?
RG: more pizza crust.
KS: White or black truffle oil?
KS: Favorite era of architecture/design?
KM: mid-century modern, although I love
what’s happening right now in the world of
RG: modern, from Art Deco, Art Nouveau to
2340 Victory Park Lane Dallas, TX 75219 - 214.522.9898
Open Mon-Wed,Sun 11am-10pm;
Thu 11am-11pm; Fri-Sat 11am-11:30pm
|Kerrie Sparks is the art director of a North Texas arts and architecture magazine
and has quite the foodie following at www.food-sparks.com.
photography by John Yates Photography