I had never liked a pizza with pineapple on it until I ate at Roast Social Kitchen in Tyler. As the name implies, they roast a whole lot of the ingredients for their pizzas. “The name came about because roasting food just brings out a depth and different flavors that normally wouldn’t be there,” owner Nick Pencis said. Roasting the pineapple and jalapeños that go on Da Kine Pie drives off water and intensifies the flavor (and heat), caramelizing the sugars in the pineapple and the coconut sprinkled on top. It’s a pizza that pairs well with an unexpected focus of the bar: an extensive rum collection. If bartender Parker Case is working, he’ll be happy to guide you through their selections, like the Hamilton 86 I sipped.
But I didn’t travel to Tyler to eat pineapple pizza—I came for one of their most popular offerings, the Smoke Stack with smoked brisket. In 2013, Pencis and his wife Jennifer revitalized Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Que, turning it into a Top 50 BBQ joint three lists running. The second restaurant for any pitmaster is usually another location of their barbecue joint, but Pencis had a passion for pizza, and wanted to provide a premium version in Tyler. Roast opened almost three years ago with an Italian-made oven that rotates the pizzas on a conveyor belt, creating pizzas that Pencis describes as a hybrid of thin crust Neopolitan and the thicker New York style. “It’s supposed to replicate the product from a wood-fired oven as far as the char and the texture,” Pencis said.
Pencis knew visitors would expect some type of barbecue pizza from the barbecue guy. For his Smoke Stack pizzas, he buys Akaushi briskets and sends them to Stanley’s for cooking. After their time under the pecan smoke, the brisket is brought back to Roast and cubed to sit atop the pizzas. Along with the brisket, they add fresh mozzarella, Stanley’s barbecue sauce, red onions, and a side cup of house made dill pickles. (If you’re not excited about the idea of barbecue pizza, just think of it as an open-faced brisket sandwich.)
The most impressive part about the Smoke Stack pizza is that the brisket still has some juiciness left. I’ve had brisket-topped pizzas in the past where the meat was so dried out that it might as well have been beef jerky. At Roast, they cube the brisket rather than shredding or chopping it, which allows the meat to survive the hot oven so you can still taste smoked brisket over the barbecue sauce. I’d happily order it again, and I might even smuggle in some of Stanley’s smoked sausage for a two-meat pizza on my next visit.