Pizza fans, rejoice! The base just got cranked up a notch at this inclusive, newly opened restaurant,
says Jessica Hope

As a city, Bristol is pretty good at serving up a pizza or two. In recent years, the number of independent places opening their doors and expanding their premises hasn’t gone unnoticed. With the likes of Flour and Ash on Cheltenham Road, Bosco on Whiteladies Road and Regent Street, Pizzarova’s multiple locations and Bertha’s sourdough delights at Wapping Wharf, residents and visitors alike have wholeheartedly embraced the Italian foodstuffs empire locally.

And the pizza love-in isn’t just happening on Bristol’s shores. Down the road in Bath, there have been legions of fans flocking to The Corridor over the past few years for one restaurant in particular – Dough. Founded by friends Emiliano Tunno and Massimo Nucaro, Dough’s reputation as a great spot to grab a casual bite to eat, catch up with friends over tasty dishes, and even put a smile on the kids’ faces, has grown exponentially.

Word quickly spread earlier this year when the duo announced they would be opening a second restaurant in Bristol. Having taken over the capacious premises of what was the Italian restaurant Aquila on Baldwin Street, the new incarnation can seat up to 160 diners, set across two floors. As you arrive you can see cocktails being masterfully poured into tall glasses at the bar, and if you sit downstairs you can watch the chefs spinning the supple, elastic dough around in an acrobatic style overhead and skilfully extracting pizzas out of the enormous curved brick oven in the open kitchen.

As the name of the restaurant suggests, there is a big focus on pizza bases here. There are 12 different doughs to choose from – including turmeric, hemp, seaweed and multigrain – with the flour coming direct from one of the best mills in Italy. The recipes came about following chef and co-founder Emiliano’s experiments in developing gluten-free varieties. Wanting to offer diners more choice when eating out, the thoughtful team have created a range of alternative and healthier doughs compared to other establishments, with the aim of cutting down on sugar and boosting natural vitamins and minerals in dishes. This means that those with dietary requirements and intolerances are well catered for here and don’t have to miss out on the proper taste of Italy.

Co-founder and chef Emiliano Tunno showing off his pizza spinning skills

Eager to try out these famous doughs ourselves, we visited the new branch on Baldwin Street. As we sat down for an early evening dinner, tables began to fill – being just a hop and a skip from cultural hotspots such as Bristol Old Vic, Bristol Hippodrome and the Watershed, you can see how this is an ideal location for pre or post-theatre dining.

To kick off, I went for a Limoncello Splash cocktail (£8.75) which featured limoncello, Aperol, Cointreau, egg white, lemon and strawberry juice. This refreshed the palate, although despite the amount of citrus ingredients, I was amazed by how sweet it was. My dining parter, A, went for her go-to spring-summer choice of Aperol Spritz (£8.75) which immediately set the Italianate tone the moment it touched down in its slightly retro zigzag-stemmed glass.

Most of the starters on the menu are traditional Italian, as you would hope – think carpaccio di manzi, bruschetta and burratina. Yet my eyes (and my stomach) couldn’t help but gravitate towards a slightly off-cuisine option – the cauliflower soufflé (£8.95). Prepare yourself for instant cheesy heaven – put simply, this is like eating a proper punchy cauliflower cheese, minus the chunks of veg. At the centre is a soft gorgonzola, while the accompaniment of a tomato sauce and splashes of balsamic vinegar add a clean contrast to the smooth, intense cheese flavour. Toppings of crispy onions and parsnips bring a much-appreciated crunch to the dish.

Going down the classic route, Amanda selected the Caprese salad (£8.95), because sometimes the simple dishes are the best way to get the measure of an establishment. It passed the test with flying colours, resplendent in its presentation with chunky slices of tomato and beefy buffalo mozzarella, bedecked with dehydrated basil leaf and sat on a bed of flavour-packed basil pesto flecked with sticky balsamic.

“Prepare yourself for instant cheesy heaven – this is simply like eating a proper punchy cauliflower cheese, minus the chunks of veg…”

With a mighty 22 pizzas to choose from, as well as plenty of pasta and other dishes (worthy of note are those that come in edible bread bowls, such as the gnocchi alla curcuma) you may need a little longer than usual to choose your main course. Keen to try out one of the doughs, I picked the pizza named Smokey – featuring tomato, mozzarella, speck, smoked mozzarella and rosemary (£15.50). Presented on the grano arso base, translated as burnt grain, it benefited from this additional subtle nutty flavour and produced a good crust that you could really slice in to. The salty, crispy speck ham was complemented by the subtle smoked cheese, however the sheer generosity of topping did lead to a bit of a soggy middle.

Amanda was sorely tempted by the ravioloni di pesce (£15.95) – homemade crab and prawn ravioloni with a porcini mushroom sauce, cherry tomatoes and truffle oil – before eventually siding with the grilled swordfish with a salmoriglio sauce served with a rocket and parmesan salad with balsamic glaze (£17.50); the lemony dressing a decent bedfellow for the meaty seafood.

This was all enjoyed alongside a crisp, easily quaffable glass of Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi (from £4.50). The wine list isn’t extensive and only a few are available by the glass, but the selection is well matched with the variety of the menu (bottles start from £21).

Portions are pretty princely, so a dessert shared between two can be just enough sweetness to round off the meal. The double layered vanilla and chocolate panna cotta we sampled (£5.75) was impressively served in diagonal layers in a large glass. Although you couldn’t inspect the wobble as you might with a traditional freestanding panna cotta, the blend of chocolate and vanilla, with a crunch from a liberal amount of crushed Amaretti biscuits on top, hit the right spot.

It’s early days for Dough. There are one or two elements still to be ironed out, and there’s no doubt there’s strong competition from other purveyors around the city, but with a growing band of followers and plenty of thought put into pleasing all pizza lovers, we reckon this new establishment will soon make its way into Bristolians’ hearts.

Dough, 30 – 34 Baldwin Street, Bristol; doughpizzarestaurant.co.uk