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Shark Bite: Reviews of Fergndan’s, Newk’s Pizza

By Charles Matranga and Wes Brown
Contributors to Hottytoddy.com

Overall: 8.2
Price: $10 for a 10-inch pizza

Eating so much pizza has begun taking its toll on our dad bods. In an attempt to avoid becoming “before” pictures on a Weight Watchers commercial, we decided to only get a small pizza and each have one slice. That plan evaporated the moment we set foot into Fergndan’s. Despite causing our Microsoft Word spell checker to short circuit, the name “Ferngdans” has a story. Pronounced “Ferg-n-dan’s”, the name is a combination of the owner’s two sons’ names, Fergie and Dan.

Fergndan’s offers a variety of pizzas that include dessert. Photo by Hannah Johnson.

Although we were never offered any kool-aid, speaking with the Ferguson family gave us strong pizza-cult vibes. Our conversation was like talking to a vegan, someone who does CrossFit, or dudes who drink White Claws (#nolaws): it’s the only thing they talk about. In this case, Fergndan’s staff only talked pizza.

The owner walked us through the life of their pizza from the menu to the table. It takes 24 hours to prepare the dough, which is made specifically to work with their wood-fired oven. Fergndan’s is slinging fresh pizzas minutes after an order is placed, a sharp contrast to the fossilized Hunt Brothers pizza we ate last week. As one of the very few restaurants with a wood-fired pizza oven, we could immediately tell the difference from the color and crunch of the crust. They keep their sauce simple by using only fresh tomatoes and salt. However, the amount of sauce was lacking and didn’t add much flavor to the pizza. If you aren’t crazy about sauce, this pizza could easily be rated higher for you.

We originally planned to only review plain cheese pizza. However, Fergndan’s demonstrated the value that a quality piece of pepperoni adds to a pizza experience. The pepperoni slices sacrificed crispness for thickness, but their savory flavor more than made up for it. As a result, we decided to order half cheese/half pepperoni for all of our pizza reviews.

Fergndan’s threw the whole kitchen at us. On top of our usual cheese and pepperoni, we sampled the Margherita pizza, the Tuscany salad (their #2 best seller), and the Club Panuzo.

The biggest shoutout has to go to their S’mores dessert pizza, which was the perfect end to an enjoyable meal. If you’re looking for a pizza you can eat while staring diabetes square in the eyes, this one’s for you. We ended up eating so much food that we had to do a series of deep breathing exercises and loosen our belts before summoning the energy to stand up.

If hospitality was a review category, Fergndan’s would easily shatter the scale. Customer satisfaction is so important to the staff that if your preferred pizza isn’t on the menu, you can bring the ingredients and they will cook it for you. The dining room also has no televisions, keeping your focus on the people around you and the food in front of you. If you’re in the Vaught watching the Rebs play this football season, drop by one of the Fergndan tents.

Overall: 8.3
Price: $8.71 for a 10-inch pizza

When we discovered that Newk’s serves pizza our stomachs were in full retreat. The thought of eating a sandwich shop pizza gave us violent flashbacks to eating DIY lunchable pizzas. We went looking for disaster but found an impressive fast-casual thin crust pizza.

A half-cheese and half-pepperoni Newk’s pizza. Photo submitted.

We were greeted by Phillip Chaney, a manager and OG employee of Newk’s. Phillip has been a pizza chef for nearly 30 years, from boxing up pizzas at a major chain to garnishing masterpieces at an upper-class Italian restaurant. When Newk’s was drafting their starting lineup before opening their first store in 2004, Phillip was hand-selected for his pizza mastery.

The staff told us that they sell most of their pizzas to kids from Thursday through Sunday around dinnertime. This brought a terrible realization: all the best foods are only appropriate for kids. First adults lost Uncrustable PB&Js, then corn dog nuggets and Capri-sun, now it’s Newk’s pizza? Where are we going to draw the line?

The vision for Newk’s pizza was something that can go into and come out of the oven quickly on a memorably thin crust. The crust was brushed with house-made oils to infuse flavor and, despite having a crunch like a potato chip, tasted great throughout. The mozzarella cheese was rich enough to get its own tax bracket and had great consistency. Resting underneath the cushion of cheese was a liberal amount of sauce. We had yet to find a notable sauce, but Newk’s came at us with a one-two punch of zest and tang, combining perfectly with the seasoned pepperoni and creamy mozzarella.

Where Newk’s pizza lost points was the constitution. Although the crust was sturdy enough to be used in a construction project, the toppings refused to cooperate. Pizza ingredients were falling off like spare parts in a NASCAR wreck. We had mozzarella, pepperoni and tomato sauce on every square inch of our table. The older woman at the table next to us probably thought we were insane; we were covered in pizza while talking about slice integrity. We’re self-proclaimed professionals, lady, just check our Instagram.

If you’ve been with us since the beginning, you know we love ranch dressing. We were given the pro-tip to dip the pepperoni pizza in a Ranch/ Sriracha hybrid, and boy it was a game-changer. There are several quintessential moments in a man’s life, such as the day he gets married and the birth of his first child. Finding the perfect ranch dressing is somewhere between those two events.

Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by Newks. We’re suckers for thin crust pizza, so if that’s your jam Newks might be your spot. Unfortunately, Fergndan’s and Newks didn’t check enough boxes to be crowned the “Best Pizza in Oxford.” Check back next week, same time, same place, as we continue our search.

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