Summer in New Jersey: you just can’t beat it. Warm temps, beautiful beaches, rolling countryside, and gorgeous Jersey Fresh produce. I went in search of how a local restaurant makes the most of the bounty.
Dough Artisan Pizzeria, owned by Ed Simmons, exemplifies what makes the Garden State a chef’s playground. The chicken comes from Gladstone Valley Farms in Peapack (pasture-raised, non-GMO), the pork in his homemade sausage is from Riverbend Farms in Far Hills, and of course, his produce is Jersey Fresh (Circle Brook Farms in Stanhope). And let’s not forget about seafood: Jersey clams are on the summer menu.
I asked Simmons about his favorite produce. He likes “challenging, unique” greens, such as escarole, collards, jicama, broccoli rabe, and kale. He is definitely a veggie-forward kind of guy—his current breakfast smoothie consists of kale, spinach, and avocado.
Dough has a rich and varied menu and Simmons’s philosophy is to offer patrons high quality, healthy ingredients with excellent customer service, at an affordable price. Obviously, there’s pizza (almost every table orders a crispy, wood-fired pie). But there’s also a creamy stracciatella, served with heirloom tomato, avocado, and watermelon; tender meatballs, and interesting salads (on one of my visits, I had a wonderful escarole and strawberry salad). The new summer menu highlights a quinoa salad dotted with summer squash, radish, blueberries, and pistachios in a lemon-cumin vinaigrette; little neck clam pappardelle served with bacon, Jersey corn, in a white wine butter sauce; Jamaican jerk pork medallions (a special); and the currently on-every-menu- around (but for good reason) poke (raw tuna with jicama salad, crispy wonton, candied ginger, and avocado, shown at right).
So how did a guy from Sussex County come to own a pizzeria in Essex County? Simmons started working in local restaurants at age 14, discovered he was good at cooking, and put himself through culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America. He worked in New York City at various restaurants but was laid off after 9/11. This lead to a major epiphany: Simmons didn’t want to work for other people anymore. While he and his wife opened a children’s fitness center, he continued to work in the food industry, working at Columbus Bakery in Manhattan, where he learned all about pizza.
At home, Simmons began experimenting with wild dough starters and practiced his craft for four years before opening his own restaurant. He knew he didn’t want to open a typical pizza joint. He focused on developing a spot where the chefs could be creative in utilizing local foods, where guests are warmly welcomed, and where exemplary service is job number one for the staff.
When you’re looking for a restaurant that stays true to its (Jersey) roots, think Dough in Caldwell. Fresh ingredients, local farmer partnerships, sustainable practices, and delicious food.
Dough Artisan Pizzeria
437 Bloomfield Avenue
Images are courtesy of Dough Artisan Pizzeria.