The More You Dough
A pizzeria’s greatest tool to establish their unique style and brand is in their pizza dough. Pizza dough gives you the ability to show off what makes your pizzeria unique and different. Your pizza dough has so many factors that create it: the rise time, the flour choice, the humidity and several other contributing factors to make your dough 100-percent yours. To limit your dough’s use purely to pizza is shortsighted. This relatively inexpensive item is your No.1 brand ambassador. It should be cross utilized as much as possible inside your pizzeria. You can choose your cheese and sauce, but odds are they won’t be vastly unique to you. Dough style is.
Your pizza dough is your flag bearer of what you, and your restaurant, are. Having multiple dough styles isn’t typically feasible for pizzerias just starting out because of the logistics. It’s not easy to make one style of dough great from scratch, let alone many. So rather than having multiple dough styles, find a way to do numerous things with your one dough style.
Find ways to create dough-based appetizers, desserts and even sandwiches. Your dough is a menu swiss army knife ready to be put to use. The fundamentals of successful pizzeria ownership rely on cross-utilization and finding cheaper ways to sell items with a higher perceived value. Multiple applications of pizza dough checks all those boxes.
Garlic knots are a very typical and classic pizzeria item. To put a spin on it at Andolini’s, we deep fry them. They can be baked instead. Again, it’s your choice. In New York, they’re typically sold as three massive knots in Reynolds’ foil. At Andolini’s, I serve them as several small knots covered in butter, garlic, oregano and Romano in an entree bowl. It’s my go-to item for a donation, an incentive, a fix-it for a late table or mess up, and generally anything in between.
Stuffed pizza bites. A simple variation of the garlic knot is akin to ravioli but baked in bread. Ricotta or some cheese variation makes for a solid appetizer. If you serve it on a nicer plate in a line, it will have a higher perceived value than if it is in a plastic bowl with wax paper. An extra few moments of thought on the presentation can earn $2 to $3 more per appetizer.
Pepperollies and dough roll. Classic pepperollis are a dough pushed out wide, add cheese and pepperoni, then roll and cut it like it’s sushi, and bake it off. You can choose to top it with Parmesan or mozzarella. This is extremely cost-effective and 100-percent unique because your dough is different from the other place down the street. However, don’t stop with only pepperoni. That’s not the limit of what you can do with a dough roll. At Andolini’s, we use pesto and San Marzano tomatoes to make an upscale item that actually costs less than a pepperolli but could be charged for more. San Marzano’s and pesto are cheaper than protein while being a higher perceived culinary item.
Mini strombolis and mini calzones. Stuffed pizza makes your pizza portable and more accessible to sell to groups who mandate individual items as a catering requirement. How you fold, roll, stuff and top your strombolis and calzones is your unique decision. These are fun extra items that can be a successful add-on to any group purchase.
Garlic bread. Baking lines of dough and coating with butter, garlic and oregano are super cheap. Five bucks is a reasonable price for garlic bread and gives you a food cost of under 10 precent on average.
Garlic cheese bread. Add some mozzarella for an extra 50 cents in food cost, and now you can charge another $2 to the garlic bread price.
Detroit garlic twists. To make garlic bread different, I do this; I cut a 20-ounce dough into six lines, then make three twists of them that I drench in garlic butter. Then I bake it off in a Detroit pan with cheese. This appetizer gives a fun spin on Detroit-style pizza that is an easy win. Since starting to sell garlic cheese bread this way, I have built a loyal and devoted fan following for this item.
Sandwich bread can cost anywhere from $.50 to $.90 a roll. When you want to charge around $5 to $6 a sandwich, that’s a costly item. Rolling out a pizza dough thin and creating a focaccia-style bread, or even a mini Stromboli, gives you the ability to do a small sandwich at a significantly reduced food cost — all while being completely 100-percent brand specific to you. I highly suggest naming them something that’s different. For our small sandwich-style Strombolis, I call them Strombolicchios, the name of the lighthouse island off the coast of the real island of Stromboli.
Funnel cake and Churro knots. You could also do the same exact process as garlic knots, deep fry them and turn them into a makeshift funnel cake or makeshift churro, which gives you two different options for desserts — all with your dough.
Cannoli. I’ve even taken pizza dough, rolled it extremely thin around a metal tube to make a makeshift cannoli shell. No, they did not look or taste like your classic cannoli, but I’m not looking to make things that look like something everyone has had before. I prefer making something unique more than trying to fit in, and a cannoli tube made out of pizza dough is just that.
The benefit of dough-based appetizers and menu items are countless: better appearance, unique, excellent food cost and multiple uses of an item. Before buying a frozen food option, choose you, choose what you create. Your customer wants to purchase from you, not from the company whose bag of product you reheated. Always find the win in making your product creation on display first. This way, the profitability and loyalty to your brand increase rather than stay stagnant.
Mike Bausch is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Instagram: @andopizza