On July 16, a new, outdoor, potentially permanent pizza pop-up is opening in the former Mikkeller space. Dimo’s Apizza, from Los Angeles culinary vet Doug Miriello, will start serving clam-topped pies inspired by the ever-elusive New Haven-style pizza.
New Haven-style pizza, perhaps more than any other variety of American pizza, is contentious. It’s like natural wine; people argue about the essential characteristics. Is it the char on the bottom, the sturdy chew of the crust, the oblong pie and haphazard slice?
For many, the answer has to do with the oven. The reigning pizzerias of New Haven, Frank Pepe Pizzeria and Sally’s Apizza, rely on those bulky, coal-fired ovens, which help create that char on the bottom and the specific chew of each slice. The pies are thin, but not soggy or soft; they can come cheeseless, or topped with clams, or covered in mozz.
When chef Doug Miriello was a kid, growing up in Fairfield, Connecticut, going to Pepe’s was a tradition. When he goes to visit, he ends up housing a clam pie at the original location, taking his pilgrimage to the hulking coal oven that churns out all those famous pies.
After thorough study, Miriello feels like he’s figured out a way to pay homage to those original greats without a coal oven: Using a combination of Mulino Caputo flour and Central Milling bread flour, Miriello lets his heavily-hydrated dough ferment for 72 hours, before baking it at 550 degrees for several minutes. “An oven is what you make it,” he says. “I’m using an Acunto oven from Naples; if I can’t make this work, i shouldn’t be making pizza.”
For years, Miriello has worked in the world of pizza. In Los Angeles, he spent time at celebrated Italian spot Gjelina, before he opened Gesso, with its blistered cherry tomato topped pies. He moved up to Portland to work for Chefstable and eventually run the kitchen at the Wells Fargo Center, but with a baby on the way in the middle of a pandemic, he decided to go back to his roots and recreate one of the meals he misses most from home. “We have to do something to make the best of the situation we’re given,” he says. “This is something I’ve been wanting to do since I moved out here. People want what’s comfortable, what brings them around the dinner table. Pizza is just something that everyone can get behind.” He says that, depending on its success, Dimo’s Apizza could potentially become a permanent restaurant down the line.
Pizzas at Dimo’s range from a tomato pie with shaved garlic to a cacio e pepe pie with black-pepper-pecorino cream, tomato confit, and zucchini. However, Miriello is particularly proud of his clam pie — he roasts clams in the wood-fired oven with garlic, parsley, and chili flake, reserving the juice from the clams to make an emulsion for the base. The pies come topped with clams, garlic, parsley, parmesan, plus a touch of lemon and the reserved clam liquor at the finish. “I’m a chef, so I hate everything I do,” he says. “But that one is really near and dear to my heart. I call that one the tribute, my tribute to Pepe’s and going there.”
At 4 p.m. July 16, Dimo’s Apizza will open for outdoor dining, beer and wine, and takeout at 701 E Burnside Street. Take a look at Dimo’s menu below: