Sometimes a chef is better than the restaurant at which he works. That was the case for chef Tim Lane at Burn Pizza & Bar. The restaurant that operated briefly in East Austin never felt cohesive or comfortable, but the Roman-style pies were as good as any I’d eaten outside of the Eternal City, where I’ve twice lived.
Lane spent a good part of his career in Rome, where he worked for Michelin-starred chef Cristina Bowerman at Glass Hostaria, but he’s back in Austin, helming Phantasma Kitchen (3403 S. Lamar Blvd.), and his pizza tonda (round pizza) is as good as ever.
Unlike the pizzas you order by the slice from larger rectangular sheets in Italy, the pizza tonda is rolled paper thin and fired to a crackery, charred-edge finish. Despite its toasty ring, the deeply flavored dough, fermented for at least 72 hours and made with calcium-rich water Lane compares to that in Rome, is both resilient and supple.
Lane tops the sublime pies, which you can eat with fork and knife or fold over for quicker annihilation, with housemade mozzarella and other quality ingredients. There’s the ingredient-driven beauty of a Bloody Mary ($14), made with San Marzano tomatoes, basil and mozzarella; a Haunted Heat that relies on piquant salami and Fresno chile for a savory kick ($15); and a fragrant Disappearing Act ($15) with potato, leek, parsley and pancetta, which might remind travelers of the first time they encountered potatoes on pizza during a visit to Italy.
Phantasma Kitchen, which is operating with delivery and takeout only, also serves salad and a variety of wings, which I can only presume is lip service to some American tastes, but the pizzas are the stars of the menu. And don’t forget to add a chocolate brownie ($5) or vanilla bean panna cotta with berry compote ($5). Both are excellent and hold up for days.
It recently was announced that Lane will serve as executive chef of a forthcoming Italian beer garden in Bee Cave called the Garden at Ellera. The project eventually will include a more upscale restaurant.
Information: Phantasma Kitchen. 3403 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-621-4321, phantasma.kitchen.
Hours: Noon to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.