When a pizza restaurant runs out of dough during a busy night, it's a bummer for hungry customers who show up expecting to eat. For the restaurant, there could be worse problems. To anyone else, the irony is kind of amusing, given that the business's name itself contains said pizza component that's in limited supply.
Mother Dough, the passion project of owner and sole pizzaiolo/fornaio Bez Compani, didn't get going on Hollywood Boulevard between Vermont and Hillhurst with a flashy launch. The build-up was relatively quiet compared to another Neapolitan-style pizza place with similarly high ambitions -- and a meticulously built oven also by craftsman Stefano Ferrara -- across town. Since it opened on March 22, Compani has relied on word of mouth to reach its early customers. If a recent night is any indication, this build-an-impressive-authentic-pizza-oven-and-they-will-come strategy is working.
With Tomato Pie, DiCarlo, Michelangelo, Garage, Little Dom's, Nicky D's, and Lucifer's, it's not as if the Los Feliz/Silver Lake area is lacking for non-chain operated pizza outlets, some boasting wood burning ovens, "artisanal" ingredients and claims to various regional authenticities. But this new kid on the block brings an entirely different game, one fashioned in the Neapolitan tradition. "I've been pursing flatbreads for years," Compani tells us, having studied dhosas in India and spent time in pizzerie in Italy, where the London native attended Bocconi University in Milan and found "my taste for Neapolitan."
Pies emerge from the clay cave of the 850 degree-burning oven beautifully carbonized around the edges, blistering with mozzarella di bufala and other specialty ingredients. Beyond the classic Margherita option with its base of tangy San Marzano tomatoes ($15), other toppings such as zucchini ribbons with mozzarella, manchego and thyme ($17), arugula and 18-month aged San Daniele prosciutto ($19), and oven roasted vine tomatoes ($17) don't compromise the dough's balance of salt and slightly sour edge. Compani uses relatively "light toppings" as opposed to "an amalgamation of toppings [so] that you don't taste the crust," and pies are served whole.
Variation is part of the experience. Using a mother dough (versus commercial yeast) and an oven in which the conditions shift "minute to minute" keep Compani on his toes. Bubble size and other qualities change "with the burn. But at the same time it adds distinctive flavor to the crust." Side dishes, such a green salad, raw almonds with lemon, oil and salt, charcuterie platter, and burrata salad, are somewhat more predictable. Oven-roasted pears and triple chocolate mousse conclude the meal. (Bar Covell is also steps away for nightcap purposes.)
Mother Dough's interior will feel familiar to Bobo-restaurant dwellers circa 2010. The floor is concrete and indestructible, natural imperfections of the wood tables are lovingly retained, shiny copper piping is exposed, and the tile work blends retro with contemporary sensibilities. Light sources are a mix of the requisite Edison bulbs, simple globe pendant lamps, round fixtures surrounded by patterns made of vintage railroad spikes from Compani's collection, and a metal chandelier that was formerly a table in his sister's yard. Much like the pizzas, uniformity doesn't exactly belong here. "I didn't want this clean cut," Compani says. LA Weekly cartoon contributor Patrick O'Connor designed the restaurant's graphics.
Just because the flames from the mix of seasoned almond and oak wood quickly blasts each pie on the streamlined menu, don't expect your pizza to show up instantly when the house is packed. Or for there always to be enough dough or mozzarella to keep up with demand as Mother Dough gets its sea legs. One mother dough and one pizza maker can only do so much.
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