Dallas has long been known for its steakhouses and national chains, but it's time to update that reputation and add another cuisine: pizza. With the August arrival of Dough Pizzeria Napoletana, it's become evident that our local pizza scene is on fire.
Dough comes with a sterling reputation -- it's a very big deal in its hometown San Antonio, where it is one of two pizzerias to hold a certification from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN). To get "VPN" status, pizzerias must follow a strict set of rules, including using certain flour, cheese and tomatoes, as well as keeping its oven at 800 degrees or higher, and cooking the pizza quickly, for only 90 seconds.
Pizzaphiles know that a VPN-certified pizza will come out from the oven with a crust that's browned and chewy; bright-tasting tomatoes; and cheese that's pale white, soft and creamy. Dallas already has two VPN-certified pizzerias: Cane Rosso in Deep Ellum, and Cavalli, which has branches in Irving and McKinney.
The Dough location in Dallas has not yet obtained its VPN certification, but it does its pizza in the same style as the San Antonio original. Its crust seems less pliable and slightly bland in flavor, at least compared to Cane Rosso and Cavalli; but finicky types who don't like to fold their crust might like the crisper version at Dough.
Following VPN style, Dough's pizzas come light on the toppings rather than the heavy pizza bomb of old. A signature pie is the pork love ($20), with four kinds of cured meat: salami, sausage, pancetta and speck. Yet the meats are applied with a light hand: a slice here, a nugget there. The experience is not just about the tangy flavor of the meats but the interplay between meat, crust and cheese.
The lightest pizza is the margherita ($14) with tomato, mozzarella, a sprinkling of Parmesan and a couple of torn basil leaves -- so light, you could almost eat the whole pie. It's fun to get a margherita and experiment with one of their nearly two dozen topping options, such as onion caramelized until mellow and golden; firm white anchovies; a sunny-side egg; or hand-trimmed fresh artichokes.
Appetizers such as an antipasto plate ($18) with roasted peppers, salami, olives and rosemary-dusted flatbread are casual and easy to share. Perhaps the most luscious is burrata ($14), a house-made cheese which they do seasonally and which is a signature in San Antonio. During the winter, it might have mushrooms, but in the fall, it incorporates pureed butternut squash. The presentation is beautiful, with the cheese stretched into a little package that looks like a purse. Inside the cheese shell is a filling of squash puree mixed with mascarpone cheese -- so rich that we were glad we shared.
Salads use good greens but ours came overdressed. Nonna's ($9) is like a new-age Caesar, with baby romaine lettuce and soft chunks of ricotta; it has loads of flavor from its generous dose of capers and olives.
Desserts are fun, especially the Nutella panini sandwich ($8). This is something you could make at home, if you'd thought of it: sandwiches made of buttered bread filled with Nutella spread, and then grilled. It arrives cut into wedges, easy to share, with whipped cream and drizzled caramel. Our polenta cake with macerated strawberries ($8) tasted dry and crumbly, but tiramisu ($8) felt new again, with ample mascarpone cheese and laser-cut sharp edges.
The wine list has many Italian selections with unusual labels, and most come by the glass. Service is extremely attentive, and the atmosphere is spacious and comfortable. A granite bar wraps around the pizza oven where it's fun to sit and watch. Coincidentally, Dough occupies the same location in North Dallas where Cane Rosso first opened before moving to Deep Ellum, so there's a built-in audience for good pizza in the neighborhood.