Chef Christian Petroni, judge on the Food Network TV show Chopped and co-winner of Food Network Star in 2018, is the new culinary director of Dallas pizzerias Cane Rosso, Zoli’s NY Pizza and Thunderbird Pies.
The restaurants span nearly a dozen North Texas locations in Arlington, Addison, Carrollton, Dallas, Fort Worth and more. Among them, the fastest growing is the Neapolitan pizzeria Cane Rosso, which received a visit from Guy Fieri. Dinners, drive-ins and diving in 2012 and was featured in a spinoff show Triple D Nation in 2020.
The restaurants already had a bit of fame. But this week, TikTok food critic Keith Lee visited Thunderbird Pies, a Detroit-style restaurant in East Dallas. Lee told his 16 million followers that he didn’t like the sauce on Thunderbird Pies’ pizza. Good news, TV chef Petroni is already reworking the menus of Zoli’s NY Pizza, Cane Rosso and Thunderbird Pies.
Dallas restaurant owner Jay Jerrier spent about 10 years admiring New York chef Petroni’s work in New York and on television. And yes: Jerrier hired Petroni long before Lee put Thunderbird Pies on TikTok.
Petroni will soon be ‘the real authentic face’ of Cane Rosso, Zoli’s and Thunderbird Pies, he says The news. He is the son of a construction worker and a housewife. Growing up in the Bronx, he says, “we ate, breathed and slept Italian food.”
The Dallas Morning News spoke to Petroni last week about his new role at three of Dallas’ most beloved pizzerias.
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Let’s meet him.
How did you get into food?
“I’ve been working in the restaurant business since I was 12,” Petroni explains. “I lied to the owner of Alex & Henry’s in Scarsdale, NY and told him I was 14 so I could work. I have my tuxedo and my giant cummerbund.
“Restaurants are deeply ingrained in me and are a big part of my life. »
Petroni loved Italian food before he was a pre-teen. As a child, he spent his summers on the island of Ponza in southern Italy with his family.
Your job title in Dallas is… (checks notes)… Culinary Commander in Chief?
“The thing about Jay (Jerrier) is he’s one of the funniest guys around. He and I share a love for THESopranos“, says Petroni.
Another way to define the position, in Petroni’s words, is that it becomes “the beating heart of culinary inspiration” for the restaurant group.
He’s laughing. “What are we going to say, culinary director?”
(Yeah, that’s what we called it.)
Petroni challenges: “Let’s have fun with this. »
The work involves reworking the recipes of the three restaurants and training the staff in hospitality. Petroni will remain based in New York, where his wife and two children live. He plans to travel to Dallas regularly, and he has also trained Dallas chefs at his private studio in New York.
How are you going to change the menus in Dallas?
He plans to work first at Zoli’s, which serves New York-style brisket pizza, pasta, meatballs and lasagna.
“The influence of my childhood in the Bronx is going to show up a lot in Zoli’s reworked menu,” the TV chef said. “When it comes to pizza, you won’t see much change except for a few fun specialties and pizza collaborations, whether it’s with local barbecue joints or a celebrity chef somewhere in the country.”
A new special is arriving on January 30, 2024: Zoli’s first square pie with a sesame seed crust.
And Petroni is happy to bring his red sauce. “It’s the lifeblood of the Petronis,” he says.
Thanks to Petroni, Zoli’s has already started cooking pasta to order instead of pre-cooking it to save time, a spokesperson said. Petroni’s updated vodka sauce is now available at Zoli’s.
Another change is the chicken cutlets, which now contain pecorino and parmesan in the breading, along with Sicilian oregano.
“We’re going to change the game on chicken chops in Dallas,” he says.
What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?
Parmigiano Reggiano, he says.
Did you find any restaurants you liked in Dallas?
He explores Tex-Mex.
“For me, who grew up in New York, we hear fajitas and you’re not excited. But my God,” he says. (He likes our fajitas.)
And he loves Jimmy’s Food Store in Old East Dallas. It’s as authentic as some of New York’s best Italian delis, Petroni says.
Are you going to open new restaurants in Dallas?
“It could be nice,” Petroni suggests.
We know one for sure: He’ll help open the next Cane Rosso in Lake Highlands, in place of Texas’ last Taco Diner. Its launch is scheduled for April 2024.
For more food news, follow Sarah Blaskovich on X (formerly Twitter) at @sblaskovich.