I am an equal opportunity pizza eater. By that, I mean that I will eat any pizza you put in front of me, including Totino’s Party Pizza. What I am not, however, is an equal opportunity pizza enjoyer. I have standards, people. Standards set long ago when I was in my early adolescence and my friends and I would get off school for the afternoon and head to the local pizza shop in our Stars Hollow-esque small town. The Pizza Gallery (may it rest in peace) was a simple, straightforward pizza joint, with a counter where you could order by the slice and a long line of pizza ovens behind it. I don’t recall whether they had any fancy or gourmet toppings, but that didn’t particularly matter because we always ordered the same things: a slice of cheese or pepperoni pizza and a basket of fries with malt vinegar on the side. The pizza was a typical NY-style slice, with a thin but chewy crust and the perfect balance of sauce and cheese. When a pizza is made correctly, or rather, according to my standards, you don’t need to dress it up with any other toppings to truly enjoy it.
Alas, I have spent most of my adult life in the Midwest, the South and the West Coast, where a good, honest slice of NY-style pizza is difficult to come by. So, you can bet I was excited to hear that Pizzeria Ruby had opened in Springdale last summer and that the buzz was all positive. I recently had the chance to spend a few days in Northwest Arkansas and informed the friends we were staying with that I really only had one requirement for our trip, and that was to try Pizzeria Ruby. Thankfully they are also equal opportunity pizza eaters and were happy to indulge my pizza-related travel request.
The environment of Pizzeria Ruby draws you in as soon as you step through the doors. Classic red and white checkered tablecloths, an open kitchen, a flood of natural light and a veritable jungle of potted plants all work together to provide a cozy, warm ambiance with a family-friendly feel. I visited for lunch, which required ordering at the counter from a limited menu, but that didn’t detract from the experience.
The menu includes standard cheese, pepperoni, sausage and other classic toppings, of which you can order by the slice at lunch. There are also more complex specialty pies available, such as the “Truffle Pig,” “Harbor Master” and the “Green Monstah.” In addition to their pizzas, Pizzeria Ruby offers a variety of hand-made egg pasta dishes and other Italian classics, all of which looked incredible, but I was on a very specific mission to try the pizza.
Although I was enamored with the environment, a pretty, cozy setting doesn’t mean much if the food isn’t good, so I was eager for the pizza to be delivered. While we waited, we tried cocktails from their full bar and ordered a couple of baskets of “Nice Bread,” which comes with flavored olive oil to dip the bread in.
We ended up ordering entirely too much pizza for our table of four adults and four children, but is “too much pizza” even really a thing? I started to wonder when we had to clear extra space on our table to fit the three massive pizzas, one with half cheese and half pepperoni, one “Watertown” (Italian sausage, garlic, spinach, sheep’s milk feta, mozzarella, red sauce and basil), and one “Howdy Neighbor” (Wright’s BBQ beef brisket, cheddar, red onion, jalapeno popper cream cheese, and scallions). But when you are on a mission to try as much pizza as possible, you make it work.
I’m happy to report that Pizzeria Ruby lived up to my standards and my inner adolescent was thrilled. The biggest hit with our group was the BBQ pizza. Combining Wright’s BBQ, jalapeno popper cream cheese (exactly what it sounds like: spicy jalapeno cream cheese) and pizza should be outlawed because it is a dangerously delicious mix of flavors. Even the kids enjoyed their bites of the “Howdy Neighbor.” My favorite, however, ended up being the plain cheese. As I mentioned earlier, nothing really compares to a simple slice of cheese pizza if it is done properly, and Pizzeria Ruby definitely does the cheese pizza justice. The crust was thin and crisp on the bottom while still maintaining the all-important gluten-chewiness. Its red sauce is unfussy and allows the tomato flavor to shine, which plays nicely with the blanket of melty cheese on top. If you haven’t set pizza standards for yourself yet, I highly recommend you make a trip to Pizzeria Ruby and get that sorted out. You deserve to have high standards for pizza and Pizzeria Ruby will show you just where to set that bar.
5519 Hackett St., Springdale
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.