Made From Scratch
1706 E Douglas Ave
Written by Britt Shoffner
I've often dreamt of opening my own food establishment. Many people have told me that I should at some point, which gives me the confidence that I would have enough of a following of regulars to keep me open, whatever I would decide to do. And even though I don't necessarily have the clearest vision of what I would offer, one thing is for sure: I would keep it simple. No matter what, I've always admired the reliability of doing one thing, and doing it extremely well. Luckily, I can rely on our newest pizza establishment, Piatto, to do that for all of Wichita.
You may already be aware that the owner, Robert McMullin, travelled to Naples to study at La Notizia. There, he witnessed old-world technique by the hands of Enzo Coccia, whom is considered a god in the realm of Neapolitan pizza. McMullin learned, as with iconic dishes, emphasis is placed heavily on traditional technique. You know, like Nonna used to make. Or rather, like Nonna's Nonna's Nonna use to make.
When Robert brought this trade secret recipe back to his home in Wichita, he and his wife (and managing partner), Carolina Tabares, aimed not to bring a new innovation of pizza, but rather to showcase its origins. He sources high-quality classic ingredients to accompany his signature old-world crust. McMullin sources optimal ingredients such as organic California-grown Bianco di Napoli tomatoes in his simple, rustic sauce. He uses specialty flour from Antimo Caputo and high-end cured meats from La Quercia in Iowa.
When the dough has been handled properly, it will have the perfect crispy, chewy, and airy texture unlike most pizza crusts you'll ever come across in your lifetime. When I talk with Robert, he's often stressed about the temperature and nature of his dough. Of course, it's obvious to him that the dough had not reached optimal temperature, and thus refusing to stretch out appropriately. But, like opening a restaurant, you have to learn when to work it and when to relax. I interpret McMullin's anxieties as a good sign. He's aiming to share a life-changing experience with pizza
The shop, located in the Douglas Design District has a minimalistic and modern feel. During its construction, the neighborhood was in quite a stir. When it came time to bring the oven into the shop, it couldn't just be strolled in through the front door. The three-ton gleaming, artisan-built brick oven had been installed with a massive forklift. Soon after the restaurant's new facade appeared, which updated to a dark rugged stone, with distinct pillars and a broad window view. The interior is a shining white with dark accenting cabinetry and tables.
The attention of certain details are apparent. This, in combination with the outstanding food only gives the guests of Piatto a recognizable experience every time. The menus are even made out of 1/4"-thick wood planks, which I'm guessing is an homage to McMullin's background in woodworking.
When you first walk in, you immediately notice a half-moon granite counter standing tall in the back of the dining room. It serves as bar-seating for diners who want a seat up front to admire the mastery. Behind it, you'll see Robert and his kitchen aides assemble well-organized mise (a kitchen-phrase for everything in its place) on top freshly hand-stretched dough over glistening marble. The team work quickly to fire each order with ticket times running close to 3 minutes.
Pizza is pretty much perfect food, so I wouldn't stress too much about making the right decision from the menu. You might be more adventurous and try the "Fresca." This white-style pizza comes with fresh mozzarella, olive oil, pancetta, and fresh lemon slices. Or you might give their popular Francesca a chance with crushed pistachios, rosemary, red onion, fresh mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, and olive oil. Either way, the flavor combinations are tried-and-true, so you shouldn't be led astray with outrageous flavors.
After several visits, I've had the pleasure of trying a quite few creations of which they offer two distinct styles: Red and White. My favorite of the red variety is the Diavola, with spicy Borsellino salami, fresh mozzarella, garlic, olive oil, and rustic tomato sauce. It has an unctuous mouthfeel, heavy on the garlic and savory flavors. My other favorite of the white variety is the Manzoli, featuring Berkshire prosciutto and fresh lemon peel.
Because some of the pizzas have a wetter nature, they tend to be a little messier, too. Of course, you and I can delve into the politics of how to properly hold a slice of pizza, or we can just forgo tradition all together and use a fork and knife - if you can handle the controversy, that is. Also if you can't imagine pizza without a red sauce, feel free to ask for a side of it.
I'd also like to press the important subject of dessert. Two options are offered, both of which I've had the pleasure eat. One is tiramisu locally-made by friends at MilkFloat, which is a new bakeshop in Delano specializing in made-from-scratch goodies. The other option is my personal favorite, the Saltimbocca con Nutella. It's quite literally their pizza dough folded over with oozing, hot nutella on the inside. I honestly wasn't sure that I was going to be blown away by much more than bread and chocolate alone, but the dough is so spectacular, it really can adapt to sweet as well (if not better) as it does to savory. It truly is a wonderful dessert.
Piatto is only open for dinner, as to not to draw away from the Design District's other busy lunch spots. Besides, who wants to compete with Tanya's Soup Kitchen, anyway? To say the least, I am very grateful Robert and Carolina have brought something truly iconic to a neighborhood that already has become so renowned for it's foodie-loving establishments. Keep up the great work!
Learn more about PIATTO NEAPOLITAN PIZZERIA by visiting their website at PIATTOICT.com
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Britt Shoffner has helped many newer restaurants and bakeries find their footing with her expertise. Known as the "Avid Snacker" (@avidsnacker), she writes with an aim to highlight Wichita's food culture. Read more of Britt's writings on her blog, avidsnacker.wordpress.com.