Hoboken, New Jersey: Promising Pizza at Dozzino
534 Adams Street, Hoboken NJ 07030 (map); 201-656-6561; dozzino.com
Pizza style: Neapolitan
Oven type: Wood-fired, Gas-assist
The skinny: Good Neapolitan pizza and crostini, stellar charcuterie offerings, espresso bar. BYOB.
Notes: Open Wednesday through Sunday. 9 am for espresso, 1 pm for pizza.
Price: Pizzas $10 to $16
Although I tend to be wary of businesses jumping on the locavore bandwagon, my recent visit to Dozzino in Hoboken convinced me to believe the hype about owner Marc Magliozzi. Magliozzi is legit; he seriously cares about his food and his neighborhood.
After taking an inspirational 2008 trip to an uncle's pizzeria in Gaeta, Italy, Magliozzi and his partners Rob Verdino and John Dispasquiale spent the next two years painstakingly sourcing their ingredients and renovating a local building (formerly Melina's Pizza) far removed from Hoboken's main drag. They built their restaurant around an EarthStone wood-fired gas-assist oven shipped intact from California. Every morning Magliozzi turns on the gas to begin heating the oven, throws in applewood blocks to build a fire, and uses the computer-controlled gas thermostat to maintain the oven at a precise 806° F.
The crostini bread at Dozzino is baked in house every morning, and they toast the slices on a pizza peel before topping them with an extremely fruity and buttery Sicilian Noccellara del Belice olive oil. Get at least one with salami—you'll love how the toasted crostini's warmth melts the salami fat. The sweet soppressata has a vibrant pork, garlic, and wine flavor that bursts in your mouth.
The spesto crostini comes topped with a spinach pesto. I wanted to like this creation, but it felt 75% complete. The wet spinach was bland, and the walnuts offered more texture than flavor; lightly-toasting the nuts should help. There was a subtle sharpness from Pecorino Romano, but l would have preferred the addition of a little bit of garlic to draw out the spinach flavor. Overall, due to a woeful lack of salt, the spinach pesto seemed to function more as a platform to highlight the excellent olive oil.
Unfortunately, I felt similarly about Dozzino's Margherita, called "La Pizza". At the moment, it's a good pizza that has the potential to be great. The fior di latte, sourced from NJ-based Lioni Latticini, is excellent. It's a phenomenally sweet and tangy mozzarella that gradually dissolves into the San Marzano tomatoes and olive oil as it melts. However, I could have used 50% more sauce on my pie; the current level cooked off to the point of leaving light paste on the thin crust.
The upskirt shot reveals an overly blonde bottom in need of bit more cooking. Given the similar phenomenon at Franco's Metro (which also has an EarthStone oven), I'm beginning to wonder if this is an oven design issue.
The dough is made from Caputo tipo 00 flour and kneaded by hand; I loved the cornicione's rustic leopard-spotted exterior, with its crisp skin and open, pillowy crumb. But a good crust can't rely on the sweet caramel flavors from char alone; I didn't taste any aromatic yeast notes and found it lacking in salt. The dough rises at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours using a minimal amount of active dry yeast. It's possible a longer cold rise would further develop these important flavors.
The fiery Diavola pizza was the star of the evening. It comes topped with red pepper flakes, fior di latte, and San Marzano tomatoes, and receives a camouflaged blanket of Calabrese salami post-bake. The angry paprika pepper punch delivered by the porky, funky salami tapers into a slow afterburn that mingles delightfully with the tomatoes and cheese.
If the crust were cooked a little more, this could be a perfect pie.
The Dino has the same sauce and cheese plus a thin layer of Rovagnati's gran mortadella imported straight from Bologna. As the fatty mortadella sweats down into the pie below, the devastatingly soft texture and sweet and salty cured ham flavor give way to a mellow nutmeg undertone. The nutty pistachio accents punctuated throughout sealed the deal. Dozzino justifiably makes their website's current tagline "pushing mortadella since 2010."
Magliozzi and his crew are obviously working hard to make Dozzino a neighborhood institution. Given their location, ample dining space, outgoing personalities, and the alluring bocce court out back waiting for a spring debut, I can see this place achieving their goal. They're still working out the kinks, so out-of-towners might want to wait a couple more months for them to find their rhythm. But if I lived in Hoboken, I sure wouldn't mind stopping in multiple times a day for coffee and pizza.
P.S. Incidentally, I noticed the kitchen assistant Kristhian Santiago sporting a ninja turtles wristband while toasting crostini on a pizza peel. Awesome.