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I liked Pizzeria Ruby from the moment I stepped inside the year-old Springdale eatery. Maybe it was the Beastie Boys blaring throughout the restaurant that hooked me from the start. While definitely hip, this place reminds me of some of the old-school pizza joints from my time living in Boston. Checkered table coverings have that affect on me. So does an iced cold Peroni beer on tap, which Ruby has as well. Heck, two of the pizzas on the menu are named the Fenway and North End, the most Boston things imaginable. I guess this all should come as no surprise, as Michael Robertshaw, the burly, tatted-up chef who mans the kitchen, has strong New England ties.
On this Friday night in late December, the restaurant is loud, thanks in large part to the open kitchen concept that gives diners a full view of food preparation. Robertshaw is right in the center of it all, calmly barking out orders to a well-oiled machine of a kitchen staff.
In fact, the entire operation is impressive and that includes the attentive servers bouncing around a full restaurant. My beer reached the table in two minutes and our family-sized Caesar salad soon followed. Our family had just arrived from Little Rock, and we were starving. The bowl of Romaine came tossed in a light coating of dressing that had hints of anchovy and garlic. It was done right. So was our order of lasagna, the night’s special that we treated like an appetizer, each getting about four bites of the marinara-drenched pasta dish. Meaty and bursting with a vibrant sauce, the lasagna proved that Pizzeria Ruby was more than just, well, a pizza joint.
With all that said, to visit the restaurant and not order a pie is a mistake of epic proportions. As I would soon find out, it’s some of the best pizza in all of Arkansas. Visually, it will remind you of a classic New York-style offering. At lunch, you can order by the slice, but at dinner, an entire 18-inch pizza must be ordered. That’s unless you’re a kid, who can order a large slice of cheese pizza.
We opted for The Works, topped with Italian sausage, Soppressata, mushrooms, garlic, onions, peppers and olives. The menu includes nine other specialty pies and 16 “Classic” pies with fewer toppings. Plentiful and delicious toppings aside, the star of this pizza is the crust. It’s thin and crispy, but also foldable and with a delightful chewiness to each bite. The subtle, charred bubbles on top are a nice touch. Yes, it did remind me a bit of a New York-style crust, but Chef Robertshaw’s pizza has its own personality. And whether you reside in Northwest Arkansas or any corner of the state, this is pizza that needs to be on your radar.
Just make sure to save a little room for soft-serve gelato. Pizzeria Ruby has that, too.
5519 Hackett St, Suite 100 (Springdale)
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Closed Sunday & Monday
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