Dining Review: Pizza that's good, any way you slice 'em

Storefront beats truck pies

Pizzas sold by the slice at Rock ’n Dough include (from left) the Rajun Cajun, with crawfish, green onion and a creamy Creole sauce; the Margherita, with red sauce, tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella; and the White Sauce, with roasted bell peppers, bacon, chicken and a homemade white sauce made of olive oil, garlic, Parmesan and oregano. Below: The Firestarter sandwich at Rock ’n Dough features chipotle chicken, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, red onion, mayo and Sriracha.
Photos by Mike Brown/The Commercial Appeal

Photo by Mike Brown // Buy this photo

Pizzas sold by the slice at Rock ’n Dough include (from left) the Rajun Cajun, with crawfish, green onion and a creamy Creole sauce; the Margherita, with red sauce, tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella; and the White Sauce, with roasted bell peppers, bacon, chicken and a homemade white sauce made of olive oil, garlic, Parmesan and oregano. Below: The Firestarter sandwich at Rock ’n Dough features chipotle chicken, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, red onion, mayo and Sriracha. Photos by Mike Brown/The Commercial Appeal

The food truck scene in Memphis continues to grow, and vendors out at lunch or events are usually blessed with customers standing in line for tacos, grilled cheese or, in Jeremy Denno’s case, pizza. His Rock ’n Dough Pizza food truck has been a popular draw at farmers markets and food truck rodeos for the past couple of years.

But the frustrating thing about food trucks is you have to find them. Problem solved, if it’s Denno’s pizza you want. In February, he opened a small shop at Park and Ridgeway in the former YoLo space, and business has been brisk.

April 24, 2013 - . (Mike Brown/The Commercial Appeal)

Photo by Mike Brown

April 24, 2013 - . (Mike Brown/The Commercial Appeal)

Kitchen manager Nate Denno tosses pizza dough the old-fashioned way in the kitchen at Rock ’n Dough Pizza. The crust comes out thin but substantial, with a bit of tug and tooth.

Photo by Mike Brown

Kitchen manager Nate Denno tosses pizza dough the old-fashioned way in the kitchen at Rock ’n Dough Pizza. The crust comes out thin but substantial, with a bit of tug and tooth.

Seating is limited in the Rock ’n Dough Pizza shop in the Park Place Mall at Park and Ridgeway.

Photo by Mike Brown

Seating is limited in the Rock ’n Dough Pizza shop in the Park Place Mall at Park and Ridgeway.

Here’s the great news: The selection far surpasses the offerings on the food truck.

While I’ve got nothing against a plain cheese pizza, it’s unlikely I’m going to order one when there’s pepperoni, the magic disk of flavor, to be had. But wrangling over the red sauce/white sauce decision led us to order the roasted garlic bread pie on a recent visit to Rock ’n Dough.

I love to dip pieces of crusty bread in flavorful olive oil. This pizza captures that simple yet satisfying combination, but kicks it up with plenty of melted cheese and mellow roasted garlic. The crust — and we’ll come back to that — is excellent. The toppings are just white sauce, mozzarella, roasted cloves of garlic and a bit of parsley, which provides more color than flavor. But olive oil glistens on the top, and fat wedges of juicy lemon come on the side.

Lemon on a pizza? You betcha. We were split, at my table, over whether the pizza was better with or without the lemon juice, and I fall squarely in the former camp. I like the pizza without it, but with a sprightliness that only a squeeze of fresh citrus can give, it’s much better.

There are 13 specialty pizzas, and you can build your own from a wide selection of toppings. Pizza is available by the slice at lunch, and slices are enormous — larger than many “personal” pizzas you might find elsewhere.

When did Memphis become such a pizza town that we earned the No. 17 spot on Travel + Leisure’s list of America’s Best Cities for Pizza? Aside from a handful of local places such as Coletta’s, Pete and Sam’s, Broadway Pizza and Best Pizza in Town (all still in operation), we were a town full of chains such Pizza Hut, Pizza Inn and Domino’s.

Now, with Boscos, Memphis Pizza Café, Hog & Hominy, Aldo’s and numerous other locally owned pizzerias, we can talk crust knowledgeably.

Rock ’n Dough is near the top of the list. The crust is thin, but substantial, with a bit of tug and tooth. The edges puff up to airy pillows with a lacy web of dough inside — a treat on its own. Why anyone wants to stuff a crust with anything is beyond me.

As long as you’re making crust, you might as well make bread. Rock ‘n Dough offers five sandwiches on excellent homemade bread. Call them subs, hoagies or, as Denno does, grinders. These are generous all around, from the size of the bread to the amount of filling. The Firestarter, with chipotle chicken, avocado, pepper jack cheese and sriracha, is excellent. Add extra Sriracha at the table if you want; the sandwich is flavorful but mild enough for just about anyone.

Rock ’n Dough is a bit small. There are just six tables and a few stools, so understand there might be a wait if you visit during peak hours. To-go orders are encouraged, and delivery is available in a limited area (roughly three miles in each direction). But the folks are friendly, and the food is great.

Rock ’n Dough Pizza

Food:

Service:

Atmosphere:

Address: 1243 Ridgeway.

Telephone: 901-435-6238

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday.

Reviewer’s choice: All pizzas we tried are very good, so order according to your personal tastes. The roasted garlic bread pie (price varies from $16 for a small to $22.75 for an extra-large) and the market pie ($19-$27.50) were favorites. The Firestarter sandwich ($8.50 with pickles and a side of chips) was another favorite.

Alcohol: Beer.

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