As a house full of Ellis Island mutts, the folks at the Arkansas Times are all about the American Dream. The whole reason we’re here, after all — is that back in the far-and-away, a relative of ours believed that somewhere in the world, there was a land where everybody got a second chance.
That kind of thinking paid off for us recently, when we gave Damgoode Pies a repeat run-through.
From the tone, you can probably tell that this reviewer wasn’t that impressed the first time we went to DGP a couple years back. It was much more “Damn!” than Damgoode. The appetizer bread was blackened, and not for some snooty Cajun-French cuisine reason. The pizza was decidedly oval, with a rim as uneven as a bomb crater. The crust was cut-your-gums-crisp on the outside and dough-soft on the inside. Given how pricey pizza is in general, we swore we had better things to waste our money on, and hadn’t been back.
This is all in the way of saying: What a difference a couple of years makes. A recent, have-to-go-for-the-paper visit to Damgoode’s second location at 6706 Cantrell Road found them to be much improved. So much improved, in fact, that this reviewer might have found a new rival for his favorite pizza in Little Rock.
First, however, the boring details. While the original Damgoode (at 2701 Kava-naugh Blvd.) might be the worst location ever for a restaurant — a funky, diced-up cell of a place, with the dining room up a mountain-goat-worthy set of stairs and small enough to knock elbows with the people at the table behind you — the Cantrell location is much more spacious and comfortable. Though we had assumed that the building — in a blind corner of Cantrell that probably contributes to more than its share of smash-em-ups — would never work as a restaurant (at least three of them, including another pizza joint, have come and gone in that location, and those are the ones we remember), the packed house at Damgoode most nights proves that if you build it, they will come. A tasty pizza, that is.
In keeping with the quirky style announced by its name, DGP keeps it sassy but simple on the inside. The floor plan is a bit open for my tastes, but it works. For the milder seasons of the year, there’s an outside patio that looks perfect for kicking back with a pitcher of Pabst and a slice of pizza.
And about that pizza:
From the big menu (with salads, sandwiches, and a good-sized slate of pasta dishes for those not wanting anything involving flatbread) we started off with the oddly named but oh-so-tasty Fred bread ($4.85) — a half-loaf of soft bread, topped with pesto sauce, sliced tomatoes and mozzarella. Different, tangy and fine when coupled with a cup of DGP’s red sauce, the Fred bread soon fled into our heads.
The growl of hunger sated, we were ready for the main event. It was no easy choice. In addition to a list of 28 possible toppings (including some gourmet-style oddities like pine nuts and smoked turkey), DGP offers eight different sauces and three different crusts. Somebody could do the math on that, but we’ll just call it a gazillion possibilities for the reckless and/or adventurous pizza lover.
Being neither, we stuck with old standbys: the supreme ($17.90 for 14-inch) and DGP’s version of the classic Margherita pizza, the “Margie” ($15.85 for 14-inch), both on hand-tossed crust.
Though we thought the Margie was a little bland and oil-heavy (we’ve never been partial to this parmesan-covered cousin of the classic pizza — it was Companion’s idea to get it, we swear), the supreme was nothing short of a masterpiece, starting with the hand-tossed crust. Chewy, a bit crunchy at the edge, basted in a garlic and basil glaze, it was just sweet enough to marry everything together. That everything included pepperoni, sweet Italian sausage, marinated ground beef, green peppers, mushrooms, olives, a load of mozzarella cheese (we like our pizza stringy!) and an extra helping of DGP’s “original red” sauce. The result was light years away from the bland hoops of tomato-slathered snooze we’ve been served, even at some of Little Rock’s most famous and well-respected pizza joints.
What’s more: DGP’s supreme came out through the all-important Fridge Test, tasting even better, if that’s possible, than it arrived hot and fresh at our table. With an overnight mingle in the ol’ coolerator and a few minutes in the microwave, the two slices we had left over made for a very tasty breakfast.
The verdict: While it’s hard to imagine a pie that could dislodge Rod’s Pizza Cellar from the shrine we’ve built to it deep in our hearts (it’s as much about our love for Hot Springs as the food, we think), Damgoode does make a hell of a pie, with more than a few nice spins on the standard pizza you’ll get anywhere else in town. Given how it all turned out, we’re glad we gave them a second chance. We’re sure to give them several more.
6706 Cantrell Road
For those with a big appetite, try the “Stuffy” (cost of pizza plus $5.00 for 14-inchers): a mega-version of your favorite pie, with twice as much cheese, veggies, meat and other good stuff, baked between two layers of dough and then drenched in sauce. Sloppy, but good.
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.
Moderate prices. All credit cards accepted. Beer and wine available. Outdoor patio. Limited delivery area. For more info and a menu, see its website www.damgoodepies.com. Damgoode’s original location is at 2701 Kavanaugh, and a new deliver-and-pick-up- only location has opened at 10720 Rodney Parham Road.