Doug Horn feels it will take a little while longer to tame the Southtown spores that have historically colonized the corner of Hemisfair Park that now hosts Dough Downtown. Yoda of Yeast that he is, Horn has long since come to a working accommodation with the leavening agents that inhabit his and his wife Lori’s first Dough at 410 and Blanco, so we are convinced that, in time, a relationship will flower here as well.
Lacking Horn’s refined sensibilities in the arena of leavening dough, I would have assumed the relationship already to have been consummated with the arrival of my first pizza out of the new, copper penny-clad oven, that essential engine of the genuine, Neapolitan product in all its sanctioned glory. The crust had that beautiful, just-short-of-burnt corona, the topping (it was a daily special) sported soppressata, house-pulled mozzarella, teardrop peppers, a basil cream and artichoke hearts. It seemed a match made in pizza paradise, and I don’t even much like canned artichoke hearts.
Since pie one, I’ve sampled several others, and I’d be lying if I said I could detect any, even incremental, improvements in the crust; they all seemed fine to me. An “artisanal” pepperoni with seared mushrooms gave the much-abused adjective back some of its credibility: no alarmingly orange oil slicks here. The classic Margherita demonstrated the value of a perfect, and perfectly simple, tomato sauce — again paired with house-made mozzarella and fresh basil. (Though there are other origin histories, the party line has it that a particularly obsequious Neapolitan pizza-maker created the pie in honor of Queen Consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy. That his creation is also the colors of the Italian flag may or may not be incidental.)
Dough’s signature Truffle Burrata puts the stretchy cheese front and center, filling it with truffle mascarpone and plating the lobe with tomatoes and drizzles of a rosemary balsamic reduction. Truffle flavorings can easily get out of hand, but the hand was light in this instance. Don’t be fooled by sensitive seasoning, however; this is undeniably a Lucullan presentation.
New to the menu since DD’s opening is an antipasto consisting of mozzarella wrapped with silky prosciutto and sauced with a robust marinara. If sharing pizza weren’t reason enough to do Dough with a friend or two, this spiedini plate, consisting of three, cigar-shaped cylinders, would easily add another; no reasonable person should attempt to consume it all before attacking the better part of a pie.
And yet, Dough’s take-home pizza box comes complete with reheating instructions. I’ve been doing it wrong for years. (Hint: it employs a frying pan, not the oven—and it works.) So this turns out, after all, to be an apology for eating alone at the bar. There’s always somebody to talk to if you’re in the mood; taking a magazine works if you’re not. Service at the bar is quicker, more direct, and likely more available at peak, early evening hours.
And stool seating somehow seems to be an invitation to explore Dough’s superlative wine list. It’s firmly planted in Southern Italy, and everything is available by the glass. Pericolo — but what the hell. I had a primitivo, the alleged precursor of zinfandel, followed by an exquisitely concentrated Appassimento Rosso Salento, a full-bodied wine that blends primitivo with negro amaro and seemed tailor-made for my pizza’s caramelized onion with balsamic, mushrooms and fontina. After this mash note to southern reds, it should be mentioned that Italians often prefer birra with their pizza, and here Dough rides to the rescue with a concentration on Texas brews. Consider Alamo Brewery’s unfiltered Belgian white, or either of HighWheel’s offerings, the bright and bouncy Betty and the deeper (think caramelized onions and mushrooms) Porter.
Determining to take home half your pizza (yes, even solo diners should order a large; the small can come across as ungenerous and un-Italian) also opens the door to dessert, IMHO, especially if that indulgence is gianduja, a lush chocolate and hazelnut gelato. Its two flavors work together as well as that other classic, Italian couple—minus the tragic outcome. And you’ll want something cold to launch you back out into the searing heat of a San Antonio summer.
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