Blazing Glory

Get “fired up” for Blaze Pizza, Frisco’s latest entry into the fast-casual food movement. A modern-day equivalent of the traditional pizza joint, Blaze Pizza takes the dining concept and adds a twist, cranking out made-from-scratch personal pies using fresh, artisanal ingredients in about 180 seconds.

Blaze Pizza originated in California in 2012, under the direction of Rick and Elise Wetzel (yes, the Wetzel’s Pretzels people), when the couple went looking for a fast-casual pizza place and came up empty-handed. Their dream was to create the Chipotle of pizza, combining quality ingredients without the unpredictability of table service. With a little help from investors, including LeBron James and Maria Shriver, the couple ran with the innovative pizza restaurant idea, and now they operate more than 100 Blaze Pizza locations across the U.S., with many more in the works.

Upon arrival, customers can embrace the trend of personalization. They make their way down Blaze Pizza’s interactive line, choosing to order one of the restaurant’s signature creations, or opting to build their own custom pie. Guests can design their pies by selecting as many items as they please from a choice of seven cheeses, eight proteins, 20 vegetables and three sauces. All of the pizzas are served on the restaurant’s signature crust, which is made from scratch daily, using a recipe developed by executive chef Bradford Kent. Mr. Kent’s recipe requires a unique, 24-hour fermentation period to produce a light-as-air, crisp crust. For those customers with specific dietary needs, Blaze Pizza does offer vegan cheese and gluten-free crust, but the restaurant does warn customers that the crust is prepared in the same area and cooked in the same oven as the regular crust that contains gluten.

Once prepared, the pies are placed into a blazing hot (temperatures reach up to 900 degrees) open-fire oven, where they will be cooked at NASCAR-like speed. The pizzas are fired by dedicated “pizzasmiths” who adeptly move each pizza to different temperature zones within the oven using a long wooden paddle to ensure pies are fast-fired to perfection in 180 seconds.

Most of the delicious pizzas that the new restaurant offers are one price, a reasonable $7.95, no matter how many toppings are selected. This includes any of the restaurant’s signature pies as well! Blaze Pizza’s one-topping pizza is $6.25, and its simple pie, which includes red sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, will only set you back $5. Not too bad for a unique meal at an easy-to-access location.

The Frisco location, situated on Preston Road, in the mix of the Centre at Preston Ridge shopping center, could easily get lost in the maze of shops, but is well worth seeking out. The interior features a cool and casual, minimalist design. It is modern, hip and unassuming, but very functional. Once we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly worker who explained how the pizza-building process works. Ordering is easy, as the staff is exceptionally helpful. With so many choices, it can be a bit confusing at first. However, upon your eventual return to Blaze Pizza (which is highly likely), you will be an ordering pro. You will get to look at the first-timers’ “deer-in-the-headlights” expressions as you pass by smiling with your best “oh, I see you are a newbie, we have been here before” look, as you move on down the line with ease. But, I digress. Back to the pizza …

Since the size of the pizzas (11 inches) and crust style are always the same, your first order of business is to select what kind of sauce you would like. Choices include a classic red sauce, a spicy red sauce or a white cream sauce. Then, you choose either one of Blaze Pizza’s signature creation pies or you can go for the build your own option. If you choose to create your own personal pizza paradise, you first have the option of choosing one of seven cheeses including shredded mozzarella, ovalini mozzarella (small, egg-size balls), gorgonzola, parmesan, feta, ricotta or vegan. Meat selections range from traditional favorites to new favorites, including turkey sausage and applewood smoked bacon or turkey meatballs. Veggie lovers have 20 options to pick from, including roasted garlic, sautéed onions, zucchini, red peppers, kalamata olives and many others. As if all of this is not enough, Blaze Pizza also offers several “finishes” to top off their pizzas. Guests can opt to have pesto, olive oil or barbecue sauce drizzled over their pie, or have garnish of arugula thrown on, all for no extra charge.

Blaze Pizza also offers a selection of ready-made salads, from a traditional Caesar or antipasto salad, to more on-trend offerings like the roasted veggie and Gorgonzola salad, or the beet and goat cheese salad. Salad prices range from $3.95 to $6.85, depending on the size and selection. While we did not try the salads on this visit, even though they were ready-made, they did look quite appetizing, fresh and generously topped.

Beverage selections cater to both the younger customers and the “legal” crowd. In addition to the usual complement of soft drinks, Blaze Pizza has Horizon Organic milk, in plain and chocolate, as well as regular and blood orange lemonade options. If you prefer a high-octane beverage, Blaze Pizza carries a small selection of bottled beer and wine, as well as several craft beers on tap, including a 521 Pecan Porter and 521 IPA.

Now that all of the particulars are out of the way, the most important detail about Blaze Pizza remains: How was the pizza? Having never heard of the restaurant, my family and I arrived as the perfect jury, with no preconceived notions. We were also cranky and hostile from being “sequestered” in the car with each other, but I will leave those details for my review of local psychotherapists. At any rate, we were blank slates and ready to try something new. I opted for one of the signature pies, the Link In pizza. It featured sausage, red peppers, sautéed onions and mozzarella with the classic red sauce. My husband also opted for a signature pie, selecting the White Top. It came with mozzarella, bacon, roasted garlic and oregano, atop a white cream sauce, topped with arugula. My son and daughter, both picky types (read: cannot go with the flow, but at least we were in an establishment where this is not frowned upon) decided to build their own pizzas. My son basically recreated the margherita pizza, with red sauce, tomatoes, fresh basil and a bit of garlic for good measure. My daughter, always a fan of cheese and bread, opted for white sauce, spinach and garlic.

After a friendly jaunt down the Blaze Pizza assembly line, we paid, took a peek in the open-fire oven and grabbed a seat while we waited for 180 seconds for our names to be called. Due to a short line in front of us, our pizza emerged after a 720 second wait (please do not ask me how I know this, let us just say I am blessed with one very literal child). As we Italians say, now it was time to mangia! Based on the way things got really quiet, really fast (minus one loudly spewed choice word — did you not just see the flames cooking your pizza at over 800 degrees?), I knew we had a hit on our hands. My Link In pizza was quite good. The sausage topping was authentically tasty, and not some weird “sausage-like” flavored mystery meat which many pizzerias use. The sautéed onions nicely complemented the sweet red peppers, and the classic red sauce was robust and flavorful. All of the ingredients played nicely together and made for an enjoyable meal. My husband enjoyed the White Top, which presented a harmony of flavors to behold. The white cream sauce was a nice palette for the smoky bacon and peppery arugula. Bacon, garlic, cheese — could you really go wrong with that combo? As for the marghertia pizza my son created, I am thinking it had to be good, since by the time I looked over to ask him if he approved, it was already gone. And considering he is somewhat of a pizza snob, I am thinking Mikey liked it (the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Not that he qualifies as innocent since he was the one spewing the colorful language. So proud … ) My daughter seemed to enjoy her white cream, spinach and garlic pie as well. Although, as stipulated earlier, it basically ended up as cheese and bread after the methodical dissection of said pie, which entailed painstakingly eliminating every shard of spinach with the meticulousness of a neurosurgeon, and removing so much garlic that no Altoid was even required.

When all was said and done, we all gave our pies the thumbs up and agreed that the crust was the key to making Blaze Pizza a true winner. It is not too thin and not too thick, a little crispy on the outside, and a little chewy on the inside. It was cooked perfectly and had a great taste. Not that the toppings are not good, because they are fresh, tasty and plentiful.

Blaze Pizza also offers dessert when you get to the end of the service line. To our delight, there were s’mores just waiting to be eaten, so we ordered some to try. We did wish the treats could have been heated in the oven to make them taste like they had just emerged from the flames of an authentic campfire.

Overall, a very good and quick bite for dinner was had by all. I can see Blaze Pizza becoming a regular stop in my family’s dinner quest (to eat out as frequently possible in an attempt to avoid my cooking). My only advice is to let the pizza cool a minute before digging in, because if not, what comes out of your mouth will most likely not be as savory as what is going in it.

Be sure you check out Blaze Pizza at 3311 Preston Road. To look at a menu or learn more about this new Frisco dining destination before your visit, go to blazepizza.com.

Frisco STYLE
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