…asks my Favorite Traveling Companion. “I don’t know,” I responded while surveying the starkly modern interior. “It also doesn’t fit the ‘If it’s funky, we’ll find it’ criterion either.”
It is our first day in San Antonio, home to the Alamo, Riverwalk, Fort Sam Houston, The Market (Mercado), and a number of missions. And what do we do first? Go for pizza, of course.
When I saw DOUGH Pizzeria Napoletana on an episode of Diner, Drive-ins and Dives, I made a mental bookmark that this was a “must” during our San Antonio stay. “DOUGH…is to date one of an elite 54 restaurants in the United States and #292 in the world to receive the prestigious certification from L'Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana for serving authentic Pizza Napoletana. In order to be considered for certification, Doug Horn, Chef/Owner of DOUGH, studied artisan pizza-making with the Director of the Verace Pizza Napoletana Americas-Peppe Miele. Doug was taught the process of making authentic Pizza Napoletana, following the strict guidelines as set forth by the Italian government. In November of 2007, Doug and his wife, Lori, opened DOUGH… It was in June of 2009 when the official certification ceremony took place” (doughpizzeria.com).
“…A nondescript strip mall on the outskirts of San Antonio may seem an unlikely locale to find world-class pizza. But that's exactly where you should go for great pie in America's seventh largest city… Dough occupies a strip-mall storefront, with some outside seating.
Upon entering, the centerpiece is the wood-burning oven that anchors the pizza-making station in the middle of the eatery, an oven that was imported in parts from Italy and assembled by artisans who also made the trip. The restaurant originally planned a different name, but when owner Doug Horn saw that the oven had been addressed to ‘DougH,’ he changed his mind…” (Larry Olmsted at travel.usa today.com)
So what brought DOUGH to Guy Fieri’s attention? I think it was the emphasis on scratch made--as much as possible--food, and when items are not made in house, on local sourcing. DOUGH: makes their own fior di latti (cows milk mozzarella) and burrata; makes their own desserts, gelatos, and sorbettos; is a member of “Slow Food USA;” has an herb garden where fresh herbs are picked daily; bakes its own artisan breads daily; and filters and bottles its own drinking water (Excerpted from doughpizzeria.com). And, as a nice touch, the menu lists DOUGH’s twenty-six local suppliers.
While DOUGH is a pizzeria, it is equally known for the burrata bar with such intriguing items: as truffle and mascarpone burrata—house-pulled mozzarella filled with ricotta, mascarpone, and shaved truffles; fior di latte burrata filled with cream and curds and served fresh tomatoes and basil pesto; Richard’s Caprese—fresh mozzarella with basil, fresh tomato, and extra virgin olive oil; burrata with prosciutto; and burrata alla puttanesca. All of these come with some form of house-baked bread—either flatbread or Pugliese. And there is a sampler plate of three items that has my name all over it on a future visit.
While the antipasto platter with roasted vegetables, olives, cured meats, and cheeses sounded delicious, we decided to also reserve that for a future visit. Instead, we started the meal with the spiedini which we had seen on DDD. House pulled mozzarella is rolled into logs about four inches long and an inch in diameter and then wrapped with Prosciutto di San Daniele.
“A pig thigh can only become Prosciutto di San Daniele if it fulfils three conditions. First…(t)he thighs must come exclusively from pigs bred in ten regions of Northern Central Italy (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzo, Marche, Umbria). Secondly, respect for the production method inherited from an ancient tradition,…a production process that recreates the natural rhythm of the seasons, using sea salt, without the addition of chemical additives or preservatives. Finally, the subsequent development must occur at San Daniele del Friuli…. A vital element is the good air that prevails here, where the winds that descend from the Carnic Alps meet those coming from the Adriatic, carrying resinous scents which mix with brackish aromas in an environment where humidity and temperature are regulated by the morainic land and the waters of the Tagliamento…” (prosciuttosandaniele.it). It’s not easy being authentic.
Time for me to stop sounding like a foodie. The rolls are roasted in the pizza oven until the meat just begins to crisp and the cheese just begins to melt. Wonderful. And, as the perfect accompaniment, the spiedini sat on a lighly dressed bed of arugula (our favorite green) and the whole was generously sprinkled with Parmigiano Reggiano. We were off to a great start.
There is a daily special pizza, and on that day, we could have ordered one with braised prosciutto, yellow caramelized onions, garlic oil, fresh rosemary, Parmigiano Reggiano, and fontina cheese. But instead we ordered our two favorite VPN-style pizzas.
First was large size of DOUGH’s version of the classic Margherita with tomato sauce, house-made Fior di Latte, Parmigiano Reggiano, and basil. The tomato sauce was pureed San Marzano tomatoes. Period. No herbs. No garlic. No red pepper flakes. Just tomatoes. (But I do think that it could have used a touch more salt and, like at many serious restaurants, salt and pepper were not present on the table.) The fresh mozzarella melted into pools of creamy goodness. The crust was reminiscent of good fresh baked bread. My only complaint is that the fresh basil was added prior to baking so many of the leaves shriveled.
Second was the small Arugula & Prosciuitto with house-made Fior di Latte, Parmigiano Reggiano, arugula, prosciutto, truffle oil. I was a little concerned about how Chuck would like the truffle oil and suggested that we have the kitchen not include it. But Chuck, to his credit, didn’t want to tamper with the chef’s creativity and truffle oil it was. Fortunately, it was used with a gentle hand so that you only got a slight hint of truffle’s earthy flavor. And this contained more prosciutto than we have found on any version of this to date.
It is a good thing that we ordered the small. Any more food would have been too much. But that meant that we didn’t have room for either of the day’s dolce (sweets)—the panna cotta or the marshmallow and nutella panini.
It seems that San Antonions have taken VPN to their culinary bosoms. “The nay-sayers—and we were among them—feared that San Antonio would never cotton to a vera pizzeria napoletana, accustomed as we are to two-fer specials and cheese-stuffed crusts. But there are lines out the door for lunch at DOUGH, and the party’s only truly over when the house-made mozzarella and burrata run out. We stand corrected—and frequently in line” (fearlesscritic.com).
While not perfect pizza this was still extraordinarily good pizza and earns 4.5 Addies.
To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.