I’m bored. Desserts at pizzerias have become as predictable as an episode of “Looney Tunes” and I’m getting tired of the antics of gelato and cannoli. Things don’t have to be like this and I have proof! Here are a few unique desserts that have blown my mind within the past few years.
Vanilla Soft Serve with Olive Oil and Sea Salt Soft serve ice cream is probably the least exciting dessert imaginable, but the folks at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California, manage to make it their own. Picco is a wood-fired Neapolitan pizzeria that prides itself on using ingredients from local producers. Instead of the usual chemical mix, they use an organic soft serve product from California’s Straus Family Creamery. But that’s just the beginning. It gets topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and finished with a pinch of sea salt. It’s both literally and figuratively soft serve with a twist!
Caramel Budino with Pretzel Toffee I’ll never forget this unbelievably creamy dish at D.O.C.G. in Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan Hotel. Budino is Italian custard made with eggs, sugar, butter and cornstarch. It’s a great alternative to tiramisu and leaves plenty of room for improvisation. D.O.C.G. garnished the dish with a couple pieces of pretzel toffee for the perfect dichotomy of textures. u
Branded Marshmallow Chocolate Cake Brooklyn’s Speedy Romeo uses their wood-fired oven for several dishes beyond pizza but the most exciting offering is a dense squishy cake topped with a single marshmallow that gets marked and melted by a red-hot iron brand from the oven. I love how they utilize the fire with this theatrical dessert finish and the texture is sublime.
Vintage Cakes Philadelphia newcomer Gennaro’s Tomato Pies is a throwback to the 1930s. Old photos don the walls and vintage radios play complete day-long recordings from a bygone era. Their dessert menu is built to match, with three depression-era desserts: pineapple upside down cake, chocolate pound cake and a layered icebox cake. Not only are they perfectly themed with the pizzeria but also their uniqueness sets the restaurant apart from the competition. I can see people going back for dinner specifically because of the desserts.
Nutella Creations If you don’t have a jar of Nutella in your kitchen, both you and your customers are missing out. I’ve seen fried slices of dough drizzled with warm Nutella served at both Forcella and Don Antonio in New York. Fried dough balls (zeppole) are a staple dessert in Italian American communities and the addition of Nutella sends it right off the charts. No fryer? Just bake a Nutella pizza! A good crust covered with Nutella, berries and powdered sugar looks great and tastes even better.
Ricotta with Truffle Honey and Toasted Pistachio This one rocked me to my core. I had it at Due Forni in Las Vegas and what intrigued me most was that it laughed in the face of chocolate and all other expected after-dinner treats. Perhaps simplicity made this a standout. There are but three ingredients and each was so perfectly clear that their combination provided a perfect harmony. It was absolutely beautiful. It was delicious. It was unexpected.
Scott Wiener owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City.