The SBH Review: Dolomiti is the pizza Omaha didn’t know it needed

The crust on the pie at Dolomiti Pizzeria and Enoteca is craggy and crisp, with dark bubbles and burnt bits, its finish airy and chewy, its flavor deep. 

Here’s what might be the most unusual thing about it: the chef making it. 

“I don’t know pizza,” Dolomiti’s chef, Roberto Garcia, told me after my two recent visits to the new north downtown restaurant, which quietly opened inside Millwork Commons in December and quickly became one of the city’s buzziest spots. 

You wouldn’t know that the chef at the helm of the pistachio green Marana Forni oven — imported to Omaha straight from Italy — is anything but an expert. 

“I say he didn’t choose pizza, the pizza chose him,” Dolomiti co-owner Tim Maides said, laughing. 

Omaha is a pizza town, and there’s no shortage of great pizza here: Dante is my numero uno, followed closely by Lyle’s, Via Farina and Virtuoso. Dolomiti has now taken its spot among them in the top tier of the city’s high-end pizza category. The rest of the new restaurant’s menu boasts several other dishes worth trying, made with thought, care and a subtlety I appreciate. And whatever you do – don’t sleep on the mortadella. 

We tried three of the menu’s seven pizzas in our two visits. They’re all well balanced, topped sparingly so as not to outweigh that thin, foldable crust, and interesting in a nuanced way I much appreciate.

Dolomiti’s pepperoni pizza is simply topped with pepperoni rounds, tomato sauce, mozzarella, aged Parmesan and fresh basil.

Deeply savory, the pepperoni has lots of meat and a super crispy cup situation happening, with the right amount of salt and grease, a hint of tomato and, like all the pizzas, both mozzarella and Parmesan. I didn’t want to write without trying the patata, which edges toward a breakfast pie with soft sliced potatoes, super crispy bits of pancetta, creamy caramelized onion, mozzarella and Parmesan. Top this with an egg and you might have one of the best brunch dishes in the city. 

The rustica boasts two standout ingredients: crisp-tender charred broccolini and smoked Calabrian honey, a sort of sophisticated twist on the “Mike’s Hot Honey” trend currently sweeping American restaurants. Those fresh, smoked-spice ingredients get paired with the two signature cheeses and a heavy dose of roasted garlic and knobs of spicy Italian sausage. It’s a different take on a modern combination of toppings. 

Maides, brother of Ben Maides, who runs Benson’s Au Courant, and one of the founders of the Benson Soap Mill, secured Garcia as the head chef for the restaurant after Garcia returned to Omaha from Portland and the two ran into each other on a bike trail last summer. 

Dolomiti’s meatballs are served with house made focaccia and include beef and pork topped with aged Parmesan cheese and tomato sauce.

Garcia had been cooking in Omaha with chefs Kane and Collin Adkisson (of Kanō and Mootz), and had offers from several newly opened kitchens around town. 

But Maides offered Garcia something mouth-watering to a chef: Full creative control over the menu at Dolomiti. (The name is derived from the Dolomites, a mountain range in Italy.) Garcia started reading about pizza. He began eating pizza all over town. He took that promised control and fiddled: removing ingredients from sauce, simplifying recipes and, above all, adding salt where he thought other pizzas lacked it. He said he learned the rules and then broke them according to his and Maides’ own preferences. He and Maides also started conceptualizing the rest of the menu, which has some sleeper hits that should not be missed. 

Two separate Omaha chefs had urged me to try that aforementioned mortadella sandwich; after a few bites I wrote in my notes “the world’s best bologna sandwich.” 

It’s simple, but each ingredient is top-notch: the mortadella, which is an Italian lunch meat that’s essentially a large sausage made of ground pork studded with small cubes of pork fat throughout, gets paired with a spread of verdant house made pesto and a bit of homemade ricotta, all of it sandwiched inside a soft, pillowy round of housemade bread folded into a half circle. 

On the side is a bright, acidic arugula salad that proves to be more than an afterthought. The  salad is made with lacto-fermented farro, an ancient whole grain, and dressed right before serving. 

Garcia said it’s inspired by his time living in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. 

“I learned a few things there,” he said. “It opened my eyes about wine. I also learned (food) doesn’t have to be messy or fatty to be good.” 

A recent seasonal special, the burrata is made with ramp pesto, pickle ramps, Swiss chard, French breakfast radish, olive oil, basil, salt and balsamic vinegar.

That philosophy seems to fit the seasonal burrata special, too. It’s bright with seasonal greens, including ramps, a garlicky spring onion, both ground into pesto and pickled. A bright piece of swiss chard covers the gooey cheese, and it’s finished with almost transparently thin sliced French breakfast radishes, olive oil, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar. 

It’s a bright and kicky take on burrata, and Garcia nicely cuts through the fat of the cheese with acid and visible chunks of Maldon sea salt. 

The wine list at Dolomiti is small and mostly Italian, and there’s also a shortlist of both classic and original cocktails. We enjoyed a few, including the “Espresso Thang,” a take on the popular espresso martini made with tequila and Archetype Coffee, and a lovely $9 glass of Barbera wine from Piedmont. 

The “espresso thang” is really an espresso martini made with tequila along with locally roasted Archetype coffee.

Service and speed at Dolomiti is casual, and I wrote down “leisurely European pace” in my notes — I’m rarely in a hurry when dining out, and most of the time, I appreciate that slower pace. But one night, the pace of service slowed to a snail’s pace. We got our order of pork and beef meatballs tossed in acidic tomato sauce and topped with a shower of aged Parmesan almost right after we ordered, but our drinks didn’t arrive for a good 25 minutes, after we’d drained our carafe of water during the appetizer service. We mentioned the lack of beverages to our server, who told us the bartender was behind and brought us more water. 

I talked to Maides and Garcia later about service, and Maides said the drinks at our table that evening should have been served well before the appetizer. 

“It has been unpredictable, and one of the biggest struggles for both of us is staffing,” Maides said. 

The Rustica pizza comes topped with spicy Italian sausage, charred broccolini, roasted garlic, smoked Calabrian honey, mozzarella and aged Parmesan cheese.

Some nights, he said parties of eight or 10 diners can waltz in without a reservation. Other nights, events in the neighborhood mean the restaurant has been totally booked weeks in advance. Some evenings, they have served 200 guests. Even when it’s that busy, Maides said they don’t want diners to wait more than a half hour for their food. 

One of the biggest surprises for both Maides and Garcia has been a quick following of regulars, some driving in weekly from Bennington to eat at the restaurant. An Italian guest from Milan, in town for Berkshire Hathaway, showered the chef with compliments last week. And a native of Naples who now calls Elkhorn home has been in twice specifically to order Dolomiti’s Margherita pizza.  

“The guest from Milan told us it wasn’t just the best pizza he’d had in Omaha, it was the best he’d had in the U.S.,” Maides said. “It’s mind-blowing when we hear stuff like that.” 

I understand why diners are seeking out Dolomiti: It’s casual, comfortable atmosphere and top-notch pizza made with care and thought. I’ll be back for the mortadella and the seasonally driven, thoughtful dishes. In time, I think it will mature into both an Omaha destination and a neighborhood classic. 

The Flatwater Free Press is Nebraska’s first independent, nonprofit newsroom focused on investigations and feature stories that matter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent stories