Melissa Blease goes behind the menu of Dough Pizza to find a few surprises – which begin with seven different bases to choose from
Is there any problem in this world that can’t be solved by a slice of pizza? – so said Homer Simpson, patriarch of modern America’s most infamous fictional dysfunctional family, in response to the news that his hometown was about to be invaded by aliens.
But the aliens changed their plans and Springfield – and The Simpsons – survived for another series. It’s unlikely, though, that the pizza that Homer turned to for solace was anything like the kind of pizza he’d have encountered in Bath over the past 11 months or so, for the pizzas to be found at Dough Pizza pretty much destroy all previous perceptions of a familiar genre.
Take a little Roman holiday in Bath’s historic shopping thoroughfare The Corridor, at Dough Pizza. It was founded by friends Emiliano Tunno and Massimo Nucaro. Prior to settling in Bath, Massimo had worked on the festival circuit for 15 years, while ‘pizza acrobat’ Emiliano had worked in restaurants around the world.
“My love affair with pizza began when I took a summer job in a restaurant in Puglia, my hometown, when I was 13,” Emiliano recalls. “The owner of the restaurant was Luigi Stamerra, president of Associazione Pizzaioli Professionisti (Italy’s highly regarded academy of pizza), so I learned all about the pizza process, from dough to finished product. Over the next 15 years, I continued to research everything there is to know about every single component of pizza, from inspiration to creation.”
You would, however, be forgiven for thinking that you know rather a lot about pizza too – after all, isn’t it basically a dough base with a tasty topping? Well, no. The pizza selection at Dough Pizza boasts a range of seven different doughs (seaweed, hemp, kamut, multi-grain, turmeric, grano arso and gluten free) alongside the traditional sourdough.
Now I’m happy to admit that I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in my lifetime, but never have I been presented with an array of so many bases to choose from. Heck, there’s even a chocolate dough option on the dessert menu!
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the menu, there’s the popular pizza fritta (fried pizza, a hit on the Neapolitan street food charts) and the star-shaped Poker Pizza – each segment filled with different toppings. And as we’re in authentic Italian territory, there’s a succulent starter/sharing board antipasti selection, a tempting array of pasta and gnocchi for those strange, pizza-averse folk to indulge in and all manner of sweet treats to finish off your feast.
But in a neat tie-in with our opening quote: Dough Pizza takes the d’oh! out of dough . . . and does something very special with it indeed.
“The dough selection we work with today started with the development of our gluten free variety and grew from there,” says Emiliano. “We wanted to offer customers more choice, and healthier options: less gluten, less sugar, more vitamins, more minerals. You can add different flavours and use different toppings to create unique combinations, but the textures all depend on the flour. With the multi-grain, for example, you can detect the sweetness of the grains, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds – it tastes really good. With the seaweed flour, you can really taste the sea! There’s spirulina in it too. And the hemp option is laden with omega-3 and omega-6 – there’s a lot of health benefits going on in all our combinations.”
And therein lies yet another challenge to our pizza presumptions: adhering to a healthy eating regime doesn’t mean that classic Italian comfort food is off the menu. “We like to think we’re revolutionising the pizza business by proving that pizza doesn’t have to be full of carbohydrates or unhealthy to eat,” says Massimo. “We’re bringing our expertise into the market so that pizza can be offered to everyone according to their needs. Still, we’ve found that people tend to like what they know, so unless they have a specific dietary requirement they’ll quite often steer clear of the alternative doughs, even though they can be healthy and delicious – but they’re missing out on something very special.
“I really love our multi cereal dough because it offers loads of flavour and extra crunch and, as it’s made from over seven types of flour and seeds, it’s rich in fibre, vitamins, proteins and minerals. But all our pizzas are light and easy to digest; they melt easily in the mouth and don’t make you feel heavy and tired after you’ve eaten. We can offer vegetarian and vegan options too – there really is something for everyone to explore.”
Emiliano suggests that all the toppings work well with the classic sourdough base, but some toppings work better than others with the more specialised varieties: grano arso is lightly smoky, making it perfect with pepperoni; hemp works best with fresh toppings rather than cured or smoked meats; seaweed works well with light or piquant options such as sun dried tomatoes and seafood.
If you’re not sure, just ask for a recommendation. And while we may have been concentrating on bases, Dough Pizza’s toppings are just as carefully considered. “We use mozzarella and flour from Napoli and import our tomatoes and olive oil from Puglia, because I think they’re of a slightly higher quality,” says Emiliano. “I’m familiar with the fields where our tomatoes are grown, the people who have picked them and the local factory where they’re canned without preservatives – you can’t beat our produce, or the way the producers we work with treat the ingredients we use.”
But there’s still one element of a visit to Dough Pizza that we’ve yet to focus on. Being a pizza acrobat, Emiliano’s spectacular dough-tossing antics have made him something of a local legend, known for his theatrical preparation displays in the restaurant’s open kitchen.
He says of this piece of pizza theatre: “To open the pizza (the technical term for efficiently extending the dough) it’s all about mastering one quick, confident movement from the wrist. It’s a bit like cocktail flairing, but easier and faster. And it looks good!” We really don’t need Bath to be threatened by an alien invasion to work out how many of our problems could be solved by a visit to Dough Pizza.
Dough Pizza, 14 –16 The Corridor, Bath BA1 5AP. Tel: 01225 443686; web: doughpizzarestaurant.co.uk.