least that’s the way it looked on a recent Wednesday night at Dough Pizzeria Napoletana. At 7:30, the place was packed inside and out, and there was still a respectable crowd until after 9. It’s just a pizza joint, you say, not an economic indicator?
Show us a pizzeria hereabouts that makes a burrata of house-made mozzarella stuffed with a truffle oil-accented mixture of porcini, mascarpone and ricotta ($14). Or an antipasto bruschetta topped with oak-roasted mushrooms, roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes and garlic oil ($9). Convinced? We thought so and we didn’t even get to the pizzas. The burrata, in its simplest form, consists of mozzarella wrapped around a core of more mozzarella mixed with cream, but as you can easily imagine, once the notion of stuffing is put forth, anything goes. Or almost anything; as Dough is blessed by the entity that bestows Vera Pizzeria Napoletana certification, they can’t go totally beyond the bounds of something that might at least have been thought of in Naples also the home of both their wood-burning oven and their inspiration. The Autumn Burrata described above falls neatly into place.
There was an impressive list of specials that evening, and our waiter nearly got through them all flawlessly before we broke down with pleas for mercy the chalkboard being just a little too far away for comfort. But a couple of suggestions did make it though the resistance- to-recited-specials barrier and into consciousness: the salad with mixed local greens, red onion, roasted mushrooms (they appear often) and lentils, and a dish of tiny clams popped in the pizza oven. We were a little less thrilled with the half order of the house antipasto. Not that it isn’t head and shoulders above the antipasti at most places in town calling themselves Italian. The roasted vegetables and olives, cured meats, cheeses and slices of flatbread straight out of the 900-degree oven are a formidable combination. And yet we cavil the problem being incoherence. Mind you, we’re not the kind of eater that requires that the peas not touch the mashed potatoes, but the presentation seemed jumbled, the pieces too small. Give us fewer but bigger pieces, please, the better to mix and match at will. The salad was at once lilting and hearty and barely protested at all when we attempted to pair it with the rustic but rewarding Vinicola Resta Salice Salentino from Puglia ($33). The clams, served in a simple wine-accented broth with garlic and red pepper, might have preferred a minerally white, such as the Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, but they remained mute as well, preferring instead to flaunt their amazing tenderness. Should this be a special again (mussels are also great done this way), don’t hesitate for a moment. And don’t shrink from sopping with the good house bread.
Oh yes, the pizza. It’s possible to be as basic as a marinara (tomato sauce with olive oil, garlic and oregano no cheese), but why when there are creations such as the fontina with roasted mushrooms, caramelized onion and parmigiano reggiano? The arugula and prosciutto model, with mozzarella, parmigiano and the barest hint of truffle oil, is a personal favorite; it?s both visually indulgent and certifiably virtuous. But on this evening, it was Pork Love ($19) that won us over. Order another big red such as the Rubrato Aglianico from Campania and abandon all pious pretense. At about 12 inches in diameter, the pizza isn’t large, but it’s piled high with porcine pleasures: salami, sausage, pancetta, speck (an herb- and spicerubbed ham from the Sud Tirol that’s smoked, then air-dried) ? and house mozzarella. The bubbly-charred rim of the crust is a particular pleasure. Three of us (there was a guest in addition to Constant SA WOMAN Review Companion), didn’t finish it off. Know that it reheats well in a 300-degree oven. Know, too, that there are desserts that may look large but don’t take sweetness over the top. The polenta cake is a case in point (though we would forgo the whipped cream); moist and moderately dense, it would be great with a glass of vin santo as an almost sweet companion.
Sweeter and frankly a little silly is the diminutive s’mores pizza. Yes, we had to do it. In typical contemporary chef’s fashion, it cheats with Nutella, the addicting chocolate and hazelnut spread, and, of course, the crust has nothing to do with graham crackers. The marshmallows are miniature. And there’s a dusting of both powdered sugar and cinnamon. So, as we’ve strayed that far from the original, we aren’t necessarily stuck on Hershey bars as a component either. But we would plump for a few shavings of the serious stuff (dark preferred to milk) maybe just after the pizza comes out of the oven.
Take tricked-out s’mores (they must be spinning in their ovens in Naples) as a sign, then: Happy days are here again.