Chef Jack DaVia moved from Detroit to New Orleans six years ago to join the local restaurant industry and has worked at MoPho, Paladar 511, Gianna, and Palm & Pine. During the pandemic, he launched the Dough Town pizza as a pop-up and recently moved it to a regular spot in the Mardi Gras zone in Marigny. It focuses on Detroit-style pizza, a variation on Sicilian pies with crispy, thick crusts – often in square pans – and he makes everything but the hot peppers in the house.
Gambit: What is Detroit Style Pizza?
Jack DaVia: Detroit style pizza is something I grew up with in the Detroit area. It came from 1946 at Buddy’s Rendezvous – a popular Detroit-style pizza place. The original owner’s wife was a Sicilian. She missed the Sicilian style pizza, which wasn’t really available back then. The pans originally used were oil pans for line work on motor vehicles. They baked the pizzas in it. They make Detroit style pizza pans, but that blue steel is still in use.
It’s everywhere (in Detroit). When I moved to college in Baltimore, I ordered a pizza and said, “You didn’t ask if I wanted to be round or square? What are they bringing me? “And I think someone said,” What do you mean square? “
Gambit: how do you do it?
DaVia: They use a higher moisture content in the dough, so it’s similar to making focaccia. Mine is on the fried side. I use a little better olive oil. I completely dip the dough balls in the olive oil and let it rise. I go for three textures: A really hard crunch on the bottom where the batter is like fried. Soft in the middle and then along the edge where the cheese is squeezed out is this lovely crust – a chewy, crispy bite on the end.
First you put the cheese down. In Detroit, they use brick cheese from Wisconsin. But here I’m using a mix of low moisture mozzarella and minster, which is a common variation on Detroit pizza. In some places, put all the toppings down and the sauce on top. I think it works better to have the toppings on top of the sauce.
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Gambit: How did you develop Dough-Town?
DaVia: The pop-up started from experimentation during lockdown. I cooked at a restaurant in the French Quarter, Palm & Pine. I decided to take some time off as a precaution and started to cook a lot at home. I had toyed with making (Detroit pizza) at home, but the preparation is quite unique. Can’t say the first one came out great, but through constant tweaking it ended up with something I thought, “Maybe I can serve this at a pop-up.” I worked as a server at Manolito before the pandemic. I reached out to them because they were making pop-ups.
I literally started the pop-up from an Amazon credit card. I bought these little pans and they were awful – all of my pizza crusts at Manolito were sticky. So I made these pans my signs. I sprayed the letters on the back and bought nicer pans.
From there I made a quick detour to the Okay Bar. Then I went to Zony Mash (Beer Project) and it went well, so I was there for several months until I found a semi-permanent spot in the Mardi Gras zone. Got a good deal on a Blodgett pizza oven. There’s a perfect hooded spot for that in the Mardi Gras Zone.
Keeping up with everything and making sure everything is (high) quality is my main focus. I make a special cake every week. It’s a growing thing. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. – GETS COVIELLO
For more information, visit Dough Town website.
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