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100 Favorite Dishes 2013-2014: No. 33, Taleggio Pizza at Dolce Vita

As close as one can get to the perfect pie at Dolce Vita.
As close as one can get to the perfect pie at Dolce Vita.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg

This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus® issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape.

My family used to go to Florence, Italy, in the summers, and there was one restaurant that we always made sure to go to at least once, for a special dinner. It's called Trattoria 4 Leoni, and it's known for having great food in general and one incredible dish in particular. The signature dish that everyone raves about is fiocchetii di pera in salsa de taleggio ed asparagi. It sounds complicated, but it's really a simple dish. Little "bows" of pasta filled with sweet pear, surrounded by a creamy taleggio sauce with a touch of slightly bitter asparagus. It's a masterpiece of a dish.

I hadn't seen anything quite like it on a menu in years until I found myself at Dolce Vita shortly after I moved to Houston. I was perusing the pizza menu when two words jumped out at me: Taleggio and pears.

It was similar to my favorite pasta dish, only in pizza form. It starts with Dolce Vita's perfect crust -- not too thin, not too chewy, with just the right amount of doughy pull when you bite down on it. Then there's a layer of rich, creamy taleggio, a soft, tangy cheese with a strong smell but mild flavor. On top of that are thinly sliced pears and a drizzle of truffle oil, which often overpowers more delicate flavors like pear.

In this case, the truffle oil is used with enough restraint that it gives the pizza a hint of earthiness while allowing the sweet pear and sour taleggio to shine through. After the pizza is cooked -- quickly, in a Neapolitan-style, wood-burning oven -- it's topped with a sprinkling of fresh arugula, which gives the slices an extra peppery bite, typical of the green often referred to as "rocket."

It's a simple pizza. Crust and four ingredients, each of which is top quality, and each of which adds a little something extra to the pie.

Taleggio and pear are not a popular flavor combination here in the United States, but I wish they were more prevalent, as they complement each other so well. Until the rest of the country figures out how to pair sweet, ripe pears and tangy, musty taleggio cheese, Dolce Vita is my go-to place when I get a sudden desire to be back in Firenze.

See the full list of favorites on the next page.

The list so far: No. 34: Chiles de Padron Asados at Caracol No. 35: Morning Thali at Pondicheri No. 36: Fried Mini Fish at House of Bowls No. 37: Trompo Tacos at Taqueria La Macro No. 38: Spicy Tamale Plate at La Mexicana No. 39: Mum's Chicken Curry At The Queen Vic Pub No. 40: Canestri alla Funghi at Paulie's No. 41: Biscuit with Marmalade and Crème Fraîche at Blacksmith No. 42: Fried Oyster Po'Boy at Goode Company Seafood No. 43: Roasted Duck Red Curry at Morningside Thai No. 44: BBQ Pulled Wild Boar Sandwich at Sammy's Wild Game Grill No. 45: Guanciale Burger at Plonk No. 46: Parma 600 Pizza at Pizzeria Solario No. 47: CFC Deviled Eggs at Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar No. 48: The El Real Burger at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe No. 49: Custard Sandwich at Petite Sweets No. 50: Black Pepper Beer Lobster at Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant No. 51: Red Dragon Roll at Michiru Sushi No. 52: Fried Bananas Foster at Custom Confections No. 53: Bánh Canh Hue at Simply Pho No. 54: Kimchi Koagie at Koagie Hots No. 55: The Juicy Lucy Burger at Lowbrow No. 56: Eggplant Fries at Batanga No. 57: Macarons at Ganache Dessert Bar No. 58: Grilled Cheese at The Golden Grill No. 59: Baklava French Toast at Harry's Restaurant & Cafe No. 60: Patata e Funghi Pizza at Pizaro's No. 61: Old Fashioned Frito Pie at Armadillo Palace No. 62: Korean Spiced Brisket Plate at Revival Market No. 63: Bánh Mì at Les Givral's Sandwich and Cafe No. 64: Squirrel Master Burger at Cottonwood No. 65: Shorty Mac at H-Town StrEATS No. 66: Enchiladas de Mole at La Guadalupana No. 67: Bad Ass Hambur-Torta at Pistolero's No. 68: Green "Hurry Curry" at Nit Noi No. 69: Dozen Raw Oysters at Pappas Seafood No 70: Banana Split at Cloud 10 Creamery No. 71: Lazy Lane Frites at Brasserie 19 No. 72: Chicken Pot Pie at Kenny & Ziggy's No. 73: Chili Cheese Mac from Jus' Mac No. 74: Taco al Pastor at Taco Keto No. 75: 'Date With a Pig' at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop No. 76: The Heights Burger at Gratifi No. 77: Lamb Lollipops at Américas No. 78: Mortadella Sandwich at 13 Celsius No. 79: Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme

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Dolce Vita Pizzeria & Enoteca

500 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006-2932

713-520-8222

www.dolcevitahouston.com


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