Restaurant Reviews

Dough Pizzeria Napoletana: VPNot

Ten years ago I hopped a plane and flew to Rome, took a train north to Florence and then back south to Orvietto, a small town in southwestern Umbria, before returning eventually to Rome. I didn't tour the Vatican, the Coliseum or the Pantheon. Didn't walk the halls of the Uffizi Gallery. And I didn't shop for gold and leather along the Arno. All I did was eat.

Over long and lavish lunches I consumed rabbit and squab and veal. I ate pasta Amatriciana, Bolagnese and Carbonara. In the mornings I ate small pastries and drank jet-black coffee. In the afternoons I'd sometimes snack on gelato. But every night, I ate the same thing: pizza.

In Orvietto, a menu printed in Italian was only a temporary handicap. I picked a pie at random and waited in the small, crowded dining room while pulling from cheap Italian beer. My pizza arrived a few minutes later, lightly topped with mozzarella, a few wisps of prosciutto and, in the center, a single egg, its yolk a bright and glistening yellow.

That yolk turned out to be the best crust-dipper I've ever encountered, and that pizza launched a life-long hunt for authentic Italian pie — a search made easier, at times, by the Vera Pizza Napoletana Association (VPN), an organization devoted to the protection of Neapolitan pizza.

My northern Italian pizzas weren't technically Neapolitan, but in stateside pizzerias, Naples' approval often means you're in for an authentically Italian pie. Founded in 1984, the VPN's mission is simple: to increase the value of the pizzas produced and processed according to Neapolitan tradition. The group maintains tight protocol for the preparation and processing of certified pizzas. Flour, water, salt and yeast – the amount and type and treatment of each is specified. Toppings have to be just so; Italian plum tomatoes and a choice of Mozzarella di Bufala or Firo-di-latte are mandated for a margherita, a special sauce laced with fresh garlic is prescribed for a marinara. A restaurant that passes a stringent inspection receives a sequential VPN number and a certificate to post inside the pizzeria.

Peppe Miele is the president for VPN Americas LLC, the American branch of the Italian organization. His restaurant, Antica Pizzeria (#58 ), was the first American pizzeria certified VPN. By the time the second stateside pizzeria was blessed with the VPN logo, Pizzaiolo in Mt. Lebanon, 106 restaurants around the world shared the honor.

Cavalli Pizza (#265) in Irving was the first Texas Pizzeria to be VPN-certified, in 2007. Campania Pizza (#284) in Southlake followed in November 2008. When Luciano (#283) and Dough Pizzeria (#292) in San Antonio were certified, they shared the honor with 56 other pizzerias in the States; 63 American restaurants are currently listed on the VPN website.

By August 2011, when the second Dough Pizzeria Napoletana opened, in Preston Hollow, Dallas' pizza enthusiasm was already swelling like a blackened crust blister. The San Antonio location had recently been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and Guy Fieri and his spiky hair had whipped local pizza enthusiasts into a froth. Customers waited outside in sweltering heat to be the first to try Dallas' latest addition to the Neapolitan pizza scene.

The excitement was understandable. Preston Hollow had already gotten a taste of the good stuff, only to have it yanked away. In 2010, Jay Jerrier set up a temporary pop-up pizzeria in a small tea house called Chocolate Angel Too, in a large strip mall at the corner of Preston and Forest. Jerrier had left Campania Pizza in Southlake after ushering it through its VPN certification. He thought the shop was cutting corners and wanted to embark on his own project, something that stayed true to the Neapolitan rules. (Campania has since lost its VPN status).

Jerrier pulled up a trailer-mounted pizza oven, swiped credit cards with a reader tethered to a laptop and served up pies to BYOBing customers. But the pop-up, dubbed Cane Rosso, lasted just six months. The owners of Chocolate Angel Too had seen the power of the pie, and they wanted in on the action, but negotiations with Jerrier over a permanent pizzeria fell apart. In June of 2010 Jerrier tossed his last round in Preston Hollow and took Cane Rosso to Deep Ellum.

Still craving their pie shop, Chocolate Angel Too's owners, Keith Hall and Brad Liles, partnered with Doug and Lori Horn, the owners of Dough Pizzeria Napoletana, who were looking to expand out of San Antonio. They ordered another volcanic stone pizza oven from Italy and painted the walls of the former tea shop a deep and rusty red. They bought Formica tables and booths of faux leather. And just over a year after Jerrier pulled his trailer away for good, Dough Pizzeria Napoletana's second location opened for business.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz