Dough Pizzeria Napoletana: VPNot

Preston Hollow's newest Pizzeria makes decent pizza, but it's not as authentic as the menu claims

But Dough had us duped. Liles admits they have yet to even start the process. That's why no certificate is visible in the Preston Hollow restaurant. And you can tell by the pies themselves: None of the four pizzas I tried over two visits should meet the VPN standards.

The crusts were pliable and soft, just as they should be, but the texture was off. The exterior was blistered and blackened but the inside was doughy, dense and too moist. The center of each pizza was too thick. The slices stood at attention when I held them. There was no droop, a signature of Neapoletan pies.

The toppings were wonderful, save for the overbearing truffle oil on the arugula and proscuitto pizza. (Attention chefs: Please back away from the truffle oil.) A Fontina pizza makes use of earthy mushrooms that play nicely off the nutty melted cheese.

Pizza chef Robert Proehl shows off Dough's dough.
Sara Kerens
Pizza chef Robert Proehl shows off Dough's dough.
Sara Kerens

Details

Dough Pizzeria Napoletana Pork Love $20 Marghertita STG $20 Fontina $16 Antipasto $18 Autumn Burrata $14 Nonna’s Salad $9 Roasted Olives $9

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An antipasto plate was loaded with cured meats, oven-roasted vegetables, cheeses and, on my visit, a grape mostarda. Not grape tomatoes, but grapes. The sweet and tangy condiment disappeared in seconds.

Salads were certificate-worthy, too, especially a simple plate of romaine hearts dressed with a squeeze of lemon and topped with three dollops of sweet fresh ricotta. Capers, tomatoes and onions added depth to the dish without taking away from its simplicity. It was perfect.

The burrata, not quite. Stiff and dry, the cheese resembled nothing of the creamy, soft decadence the name invokes, and butternut squash, mushrooms and sage added noise instead of complementing the cheese. True buratta needs nothing more than itself to shine.

It's that same lack of restraint that haunts pizzas like "pork love," topped with so much meat it borders on obnoxious. Perfect Neapolitan pizza should be almost as light as air; this was heavy eating that left me bloated and questioning my sterling pizza-intake credentials.

The problem is in Dough's proofing process, the stage where the dough balls expand and mature. The VPN recommends a room temperature proof; the Preston Hollow location ferments its dough under refrigeration, a process that requires less supervision by the kitchen. Cold proofing is easier than that done at ambient temperatures, which can be unpredictable.

Refrigerated dough requires more yeast, which makes it harder to control when it comes to room temperature before going into the oven. If it sits out too long it takes off, expanding and becoming unmanageable. If it stays cool it doesn't cook as nicely in the oven. The outsides blister but the insides don't come to temperature. Water inside the dough doesn't have time to boil and steam away, and you're left with the dense crust I ate at Dough rather than the light, airy versions I coveted back in Italy.

In a document summarizing the history of the VPN, Antonio Pace, who started the movement, says "the pizza secret lies all in the dough rising." He describes the delicate balance of water, ambient humidity, ambient temperature, salt and yeast. Making dough in the summer is different from making dough in the fall. Making dough in Naples is different from making dough in Dallas. As Pace puts it, "You can standardize the process, but it is the experience that refines the art."

In other words, even if Dough did have a VPN certificate hanging on the wall of its Preston Hollow location, the pizza still might come up short. The experience Pace refers to can't be absorbed in the short 21-hour classes taught by the American chapter of the VPN in Marina del Rey, California. Like master bakers and other culinary artisans, the art of making bread, and making it well, takes years of hands-on experience and constant exposure to perfect examples of the craft. In Naples, a young pizzaiolo can walk across the street for mentoring. In Dallas, he's plugging "pizza proofing" into YouTube.

Dough's San Antonio store may very well be a shining example of the Neapolitan pizza-making. The Horns have to be doing something right to earn the attention of the Food Network, Texas Monthly, Food and Wine and the other glossies that have flocked to their shop. But in Dallas, at least for now, something is lost in translation. Neapolitan pizza isn't a process you can stamp out, feed with investors and watch flourish. This is slow food, and it must grow slowly.

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6 comments
dantheman
dantheman

That sounds soo delicious! Wish they had a pizzeria closer to us. Maybe if they had an online shop with lighting fast delivery! hehe

Smigrobustus
Smigrobustus

You start your article on NEAPOLITAN pizza with a decription of pizza you hade in ORVIETO?? These two are different. Different ingredients, different techniques, different ovens, ESPECIALLY different ovens..........So theres youre first mistake.

Then, did I misunderstand, or did you infer that raising the dough under refer is something NOT DONE in VPN stores....whether in naples or the USA?? Cause, I got news, its done...a lot....and theres nothing wrong with it, or is it against the "rules" of the vpn. Cane Rosso uses a 48 hour cool rise.........

ANd oregano IS allowed on a Marg....as much as I HATE using the word ALLOWED. To me, VPN simply ties American Pizza makers hands....but, for some owners and OBVIOUSLY for some writers, VPN is something magical.

To the writer..if you don't like Dough, fine, tell us what you don't like about the flavor or service or atmosphere.......but if you are trying to give your readers a cliff note version of what is "vpn" and what isn't......sorry, you fell short.

And its funny, VPN is so almighty...THEY state that finishing that 21 hour course DOES make one a "certified" pizzaiolo...........

barbeedog
barbeedog

I LOVE THIS PLACE.. I am DEEE Lighted it is here. The service was fantastic.

muerco
muerco

Here, free copy editing: Orvieto. Bolognese. Fior di latte. Those sounded screechy notes in an otherwise pretty accurate review. I don't really know why Dough's margherita has an oregano flavor to it, but that tastes of Little Italy instead of Italy. And truffle oil makes me suspicious of any chef's motives.

Gipson
Gipson

My one visit to Dough was good but a bit expensive, and it certainly was no match to my favorites such as Cane Rosso, Urban Crust and Zanata. I'll never understand the droopy pizza, though. Pizza should be cracker-crisp from circumference to center mass.

One time at Fireside Pies I asked them to cook it to the edge of black, and they did - and it was fabulous - but they were so afraid I wouldn't like it that they made me another pizza anyway, and I got to take it home for free.

(Cool story, bro.)

 
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