To newcomers to Dallas, the opening of Sfuzzi on Henderson Avenue on March 4, 2022 signals more “fun Italian food,” as co-owner Brandon Hays puts it, on the east side of the city.
But to longtime Dallas folks, the opening of Sfuzzi on Henderson Avenue is the latest chapter in a decades-long story about a pizza joint and lively bar.
Sfuzzi — said FOO-zi — opened in 1987 in Dallas. Eventually, the brand ballooned into 20 restaurants in the early 1990s, until its owners filed for bankruptcy. Sfuzzi was then resurrected from 2009 to 2013. And again in 2015.
Hays and his business partner Phil Schanbaum helmed the dining room and bar at Sfuzzi on McKinney Avenue in Uptown Dallas between 2009 and 2013, and they want to unleash the spirit of that old red-sauce restaurant for grown folks in East Dallas.
“It’s like it’s McKinney Avenue again,” Hays says. But now, we’re on Henderson.
And he’s right. Feargal McKinney, who once owned Irish spots like Idle Rich Pub on McKinney Avenue, now has three beer bars on Henderson Avenue: The Old Monk, Spider Murphy’s and The Skellig. Hays and Schanbaum also own three on the block: High Fives, The Whippersnapper and the new Sfuzzi.
Sitting inside the new restaurant with an old soul, Hays says, “Everything here is meant to evoke nostalgia in a new way.”
And how do you do that?
Some of the bones from the Uptown restaurant are the same in the new spot. There’s one wall draped in a long, red curtain. There’s the red banquette table in the front corner — a spot that always felt VIP in the past. There’s a horseshoe-shaped bar and a wraparound patio.
The co-owners hired chef Peja Krstic to consult on Sfuzzi’s menu. The pizzas were his recipes between 2011 and 2013, when he was the company’s executive corporate chef in Uptown. The new Sfuzzi also has the same model of pizza oven they used in the past, to cook pies hot and fast in 600-degree heat.
Sfuzzi’s executive chef Irwin Torres wasn’t around in Hays’ old Sfuzzi days, but he’s been with the team for years, notably as one of the chefs at Greenville Avenue restaurant Wayward Sons, which has since closed.
Sfuzzi was a stay-up-late place, but Hays notes, “the food was always serious.” That’s still the plan today.
Sfuzzi is at 2401 Henderson Ave., Dallas. It opens March 4, 2022. Hours are 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Tuesdays through Sundays.