I had the chance to check out three neapolitan pizza places over the past few weeks. What interested me so much about these restaurants specifically was the SF oven at Cane Rosso and the Forno Napoletano ovens at Cane Rosso and Bettola. From everything I know, these are the best ovens in my region (Austin, TX). I had a margherita pizza at all three places.
This is definitely an amazing joint, located in a the very hip, low-key area deep ellum in Dallas. The SF oven was a beautiful centerpiece in the crowded restaurant, which had a casual feel to it, from the crowd, to the menu, to the giant mural on the patio. The pizza came to my table about 5 minutes from ordering, and to be honest, I was a bit disappointed in its appearance. I wish I took a picture; you'll have to take my word for it. About one half of it was too charred IMO, almost completely black, leaving it a little unpleasantly bitter. The other side of the crust was much better. Aside from the cornicione, the pie was delicious, and balanced well betwee dough, tomatoes, and cheese. The pizza had the perfect amount of "wetness" towards the center, and a great crumb under the excess char. I did some stalking of others' pizzas being dropped off at their tables, and I saw a wide range of appearances amongst them. Some of them were dead perfect IMO, beautifully leoparded and incredibly appetizing, however I did see several more that looked similar to mine. I do wish that the char was just a little less on mine and I would have gotten less bitterness. I understand the the rush of a Friday night crowd challenges the pizzaiolo greatly, and can hurt the overall product, but regardless, it is unfortunate to not receive their best.
Overall it's a great place, I will go back next time I'm in Dallas.
I went to dough on a Wednesday night and it was packed, I suppose that says something. The restaurant is in a little strip mall (I hear their moving), and I sat on the patio. I have to say that sitting on the patio in a strip mall is not particularly enjoyable, but then again, it's about the food isn't it! Again, I had a margherita pizza. It was a good pizza, not fantastic, not bad. It was missing that savory flavor that you get from an excellent bite of pizza. All the flavors stood on their own, crust, tomatoes, cheese, basil; they just didn't come together to be spectacular. Again, it could just be my personal preference and the way my palate responds to certain flavors, but the pizza just didn't do that much for me. The crumb was good, but not quite as hydrated as I generally prefer, my guess (based on their repeated throwing of the skins) around 55%. I recently saw that Dough was on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, which I am sure has contributed to their success. I am critical of them, only because I have had better pizza. Still, it was good and well-crafted, it just didn't have me dancing on the table.
I was traveling through Birmingham the day after eating at Dough in San Antonio and decided it wise to stop off at Bettola, especially since they also have Forno Napoletano oven. The restaurant felt a lot more upscale than either Cane Rosso or Dough, I felt way underdressed in a t-shirt. Here I had a margherita and a marinara. This pizza was pretty amazing. Silky delicious crust, flavorful cheese, and well balanced tomatoes. It definitely had that indescribable umami flavor that you crave in a good pizza. The pie was perfect cooked and leoparded, it looked similar to the perfect pizzas I saw but didn't taste at Cane Rosso. Their advantage was in the fact that I saw a few dozen pies pass by me, all looking exactly the same. I definitely praise the pizzaiolo for his attention to detail amidst the business. My only criticism is that the overall saltiness of the pizzas was quite high IMO, and I love salt. Regardless, I will only eat at one restaurant in Birmingham when I'm passing through: Bettola. By the way, I heard that the chef was nominated for Food and Wine's best new chef? Obviously people are taking notice!
Overall, I enjoyed my time at each of these restaurants and I greatly expect their art and pursuit of great pizza. All three of these places are LEAGUES above any pizza that is attempting neapolitan pizza in Austin. If anyone has checked these places out, let me know, I'd be interested to see if my observations were only based on my single trip and not an overall trend.