Old Scratch Pizza’s shining resemblance

Prosciutto arugula pizza; photo: Paula Johnson

By Paula Johnson

Pizza Progenitor

One of the most iconic pizza places in New York (and beyond) is Brooklyn’s Roberta’s. It put Bushwick on the hipster foodie map. Called one of the most extraordinary restaurants in the U.S. by Sam Sifton of the New York Times, Roberta’s has spawned restaurant replicants around the globe. Why am I talking about a pizza joint in Brooklyn when this review is supposed to be about Dayton’s Old Scratch Pizza? No need for DNA analysis or Ancestry.com – Old Scratch’s lineage can be clearly traced to Roberta’s.

I made a food pilgrimage to Roberta’s last week, and in the same week I visited Old Scratch. There’s a lot of overlap, both in the menu and the style of the place. Doubtless owners Eric and Stephanie Soller, graduates of New England Culinary Institute, had Roberta’s in mind when they planned Old Scratch. The industrial location, the interior’s casual, communal vibe with long family style tables, handmade artisanal toppings and ingredients, the Neapolitan style pizzas cooked rapidly at nearly 1,000 degree heat in wood fired ovens – there are lots of similarities. How about Roberta’s Bee Sting Pizza, which features tomato, mozzarella, sopressata, chili, and honey? At Old Scratch its called the Angry Beekeeper, with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, spicy salami, house-made hot honey, and olive oil. Am I being critical? Not at all. I am applauding a place that adopts and adapts what’s delicious.

Dayton has clearly embraced the wood fired magic of Old Scratch. PIP (Palate In Progress) and I chose a time to visit mid afternoon on a Sunday. We had tried to visit before at peak time on a Saturday night but were thwarted by an exceedingly long wait. This time proved perfect, with about a third of the tables occupied. Service is a hybrid of self and full serve, with a walk up ordering counter. There’s a chalk board behind it with menu information. PIP and I decided to order a drink and take a printed menu to our table so we could peruse. (It was seat yourself at that time. There is hostess seating at busier hours)

You Had Me At Hurricane 

I wasn’t planning on day drinking but I spied at the bar a large glass container with an enticing bright coral colored tropical punch (bartender Shawn’s creation – his version of a Hurricane). I balked at the list of liquors involved but Shawn won me over with a sample taste. (PIP was the designated in case there are questions). I sipped, and we strategized. The menu isn’t large, with just two sandwiches a few salads and starters, and pizzas, both named combinations, and a long list of make your own topping ingredients. I like very much that Old Scratch offers options. Salads can be a full or half order for instance. And there are ample vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free choices. (A friend has raved about the gluten free crust, and I plan to give it a try on my next visit).

We started with Meatballs ($9) and Stracciatella ($9). The meatballs were tender and the marinara quite good. But for my money the better choice might be the Whole Roasted Cauliflower served with romesco sauce. (PIP is not a lover of that vegetable so I could not coerce him to share it). The meatballs can be added to a pizza, and the marinara is available as a dipping sauce for the crust so there’s opportunity to sample them elsewhere. Not to be missed is the Stracciatella: fresh mozzarella curd, cream, and salt laced with hot honey balsamic, tomatoes, basil, and a sprinkle of pistachios. It’s served with grilled flat bread triangles, which in combination with pizza crust is a lot of bread, but trust me on this. It’s worth cutting carbs the next day for this wonderful marriage of silky creamy sweet punctuated by the fresh zest of the basil and crunch of the nuts.

Crustacular

Is crustacular a word? It probably should be. Crustacular would describe a crust that’s puffy, chewy, tender, and charred, with big airy pockets, like Old Scratch’s. It’s a crust I can get behind. I’ve gone off before on those little cardboard squares everyone keeps trying to tell me are pizza. This is a welcome antidote. Or if you’re looking for thick slice dripping with sauce and oily cheese and grease, this isn’t the pizza for you. There’s certainly a place for that style of pizza, but it ain’t Old Scratch.

PIP and I decided on a red pizza, The Dayton ($11) and a white pizza, the Prosciutto Arugula ($13). The Prosciutto features olive oil, fresh mozzarella, lemon-dressed arugula, romano, and proscuitto. The Dayton is a pepperoni, and PIP added hot sopressata for an additional $2. Both pizzas were nicely done and satisfying with good ratios of toppings to crust. We both added dipping sauces, a phenomenal idea to dress up plain, lonely, leftover hunks of crust. I loved the roasted garlic butter, and I even drizzled some on the tangled pile of lemony arugula and prosciutto on my pizza. We tried the aforementioned marinara, and there’s also a ranch, each at an additional 50 cents. There was little left to dunk by the time we finished.

Roberta’s has a sister restaurant down the block that has a different menu and approach. Old Scratch just acquired some additional property near their location. Hhhhmmmmm. Maybe they will look to emulate Roberta’s there as well. We can only hope.

Old Scratch Pizza is located at 812 S Patterson Blvd in Dayton. For more information visit www.OldScratchPizza.com or call 937.331.5357

Old Scratch Pizza

Cuisine (Taste) 50% max.: 49%

Value (Price based) 25% max.: 24%

Service (Quality of) 25% max.: 25%

Total Rating Score: 98%

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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