Austin has seen an influx of Italian eateries in the past year (with more queued for 2016). Burn Pizza + Bar stands out in this crop with its commitment and — more importantly — ability to create authentic Italian cuisine. Chef Tim Lane lived in Rome for eight years working as sous chef to Cristina Bowerman at the Michelin-starred Glass Hostaria. Married to an Italian, he brings deep love of Italian regional classics combined with an understanding of the science behind food to Burn’s kitchen which pumps out simple, authentic fare.
Dubbed ‘Burn,’ the newest food concept from Dunalp ATX’, bridges old and new Austin in a polished, yet rustic, setting. Inside you’ll find unclothed wooden wooden tables easily combined for a large group or intimately separated for smaller parties. The bar lends a causal feel to the front dining room, while the back dining room offers a full view of the kitchen line. A bisected mural, painted by local tattoo artist Matt Van Cura, depicts the rise (a jarring wine-drooling rendition of the she-wolf mother to Romulus and Remus) and fall (the burning flames) of Rome.
As the sole slinger of Roman-style pizza in Austin, Burn has rapidly gained notoriety. The paper thin pies, lovingly named for sister bars, have a leopard char, burnt edges and simple, quality toppings. Significantly more crispy than Neapolitan or New York style pies, Roman-style dough uses very little yeast (making it much lighter and more digestible) and is fermented for three days. The slightly brittle dough mimics a chewy artisan cracker and is sold by the slice as a snack on the fly in Rome. Lane says the dough works because Austin’s water is similar to Roman water, sharing the same calcium levels. House-made ‘nduja and mozzarella, truffle oil, chicory and arugula are among the traditional toppings.
To achieve the ultra-crispy crust, Burn uses Baking Steel® oven plates in a Baker’s Pride oven creating wood fire-like baking conditions without the negative ecological and health effects of traditional wood ovens. Favorites include the Clive (with ‘nduja, fontina, mozzarella, truffle oil and arugula), the Devil (with marinara, spicy salami, capiocola and mozzarella) and the new Lustre Pearl (with marinara, mozzarella, artichoke, mushroom, olive and prosciutto — pro tip, add a fried egg).
While pizza is the novel star of Burn, other menu items shouldn’t feel overshadowed. Chef Lane makes all pasta in-house, including an 80-egg yolk pasta that is Burn’s pappardelle with lamb sugo, mint and pecorino (the dish was changed from wild boar to be more kosher and halal friendly). Another can’t miss item is the fried artichokes (which was my favorite and will be ordered at each visit). Romans serve fried artichokes whole, as a primo piatti (first meal); however, Burn slices theirs in to 1/4 quarter wedges and fries them twice affording an exquisite golden crust with delicious, crisp flavor. The Umbrian fried chicken is packed with flavor and the beef cheek melts in your mouth like meaty butter.
Chef Tim Lane’s menu relies almost exclusively on scratch cooking. ‘Nduja and certain cheeses, like mozzarella, pancarrè (brioche-like Italian white bread) are made in-house. Locally-sourced produce supplement herbs and vegetables grown in Burn’s backyard garden. All pasta and pizza dough are hand rolled by the kitchen each day and the bar program makes syrups and juices in house.
Burn has recently started lunch service (11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday thru Sunday) and launched their winter menu. The winter menu introduces new salads and soups (Insalata Rinforzo and Zuppa della Nonna), Penne Alla ‘matriciana (house-made penne with Guanciale bacon, sugo finto and pecrono), and a sinfully good Mozzarella In Carrozza. The latter, meaning [cheese] ‘in a carriage’ in Italian, is mozzarella and salami encased in pancarrè dipped in egg, fried and served with spicy house marinara. Lunch introduces panini in addition to lunch portions of pasta and pizza.
The cocktail menu features scratch libations, Italian wine and local beer at affordable price points. Happy hour is daily from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m and is a great deal: one dollar off beer, wine and well liquor; two dollars off house cocktails and 25 percent off pizzas.
Simplicity meets style, true to Roman characteristics. Tutto qui è buono.