A Dopo is a new, highly anticipated restaurant in Knoxville serving up a unique style of pizza with a sourdough wood fired crust.
One of our last date nights out before the baby arrived, we were determined to try A Dopo shortly after they opened their doors. We had been hearing so much about the opening of this pizzeria and the labor of love that went into establishing it that we were super excited. Featuring a unique sourdough style crust, handcrafted yet simple ingredients, and a limited selection of very particular toppings, A Dopo’s food craft has been honed to ensure perfection. The name means “see you later” and I think they genuinely mean it – they want you to have an earnest desire to return and the vibe ensconces such a welcome that we felt like family.
The restaurant is housed in a former paint store and has retained much of the industrial feel. Concrete floors, a large open space, exposed duct work, and metal bistro chairs combined with contrasting subway tile, warm wood tables and tons of natural light from large windows provide a unique ambiance reminiscent of a modern European pizzeria.
The space features mostly two tops with a few large tables to allow for groups, but also to allow for communal dining where you may enjoy being seated next to other patrons. This is another reminder of the restaurant’s flair for Italian roots where they enjoy this style of dining.
A Dopo’s menu features four varieties of each red and white pizzas. The pizza rossa has a simple crushed plum tomato sauce, while the pizza bianca has no sauce but instead uses a soft white cheese like mascarpone for the base. The owner, Brian Strutz, is crafting hand pulled mozzarella in house, which is served up on several of the pizzas. He has also handpicked a few additional toppings that can be added to the featured selections. Pizzas are all 13 inches in size and they recommend 1 per person. The menu includes a Veg section made up of salads and appetizers. In addition, the board behind the host stand will display the daily specials – typically a pizza and salad offering. Then for dessert, don’t forget the house made gelato. Flavors will vary daily, but there were six choices available on the day we ate here and it was a hard decision. Things like espresso, mint stracciatella, and basil mint are offered. The restaurant serves up your choice of filtered flat or sparkling water for the table at no charge. If an alcoholic beverage is your fancy, local beer and wine are served on tap, but also by the bottle. Clearly, as with the atmosphere, thoughtful consideration went into developing the food and drink menu at A Dopo.
Wanting to ensure we saved room for gelato at the end, we opted to share a salad to start. This was actually the daily special.
A Dopo’s take on a tabouli salad – this one featured couscous, roasted butternut squash, local cherokee purple tomatoes, fresh herbs, arugula and citrus. Bright and herby with acid from the fresh tomatoes and an autumnal note from the squash, this was a delicious start to the meal. The salad felt very healthy and incredibly fresh. You could taste that the produce was local and likely picked just the day before. Can’t wait to go back and try more from the Veg section of the menu.
Having spent time in Italy learning to cook in a large oven from an older Neopolitan woman and then staging at Pizzicletta in Arizona cooking in an identical wood-fired oven to the one now found in A Dopo, Brian knew he wanted to have a big Neopolitan style oven built by Stefano Ferarra for his restaurant. In fact, the large presence in the corner of the open kitchen area is the only cooking equipment you’ll fine. All of the pizzas, flatbread, and homemade breads are cooked off in the wood-fired oven that was brought over from Naples. Getting the behemoth installed was an undertaking that actually pushed opening day back because windows had to be removed and reinstalled to get it inside the building.
Being super excited to try the main event at A Dopo, we had to order two pizzas to share – one from the red section and one from the white section of the menu. Even still, it was a hard decision. One of the most unique aspects of the pizza is the sourdough crust. Made from a sourdough starter that Brian has kept alive for several years, this is definitely something new for us and for Knoxville. It was thin and blistered, but airy and light with a chewy texture. Nicely crisped by the wood-fired oven, this was not a heavy, bready crust that was overly filling. However, it had a distinct flavor that made us both want to enjoy more of even just the crust. But then you add the toppings chosen which are simple, yet perfectly paired together. The one negative I did have of our experience though was that I wished the pizzas had more of the toppings. I was a little surprised by the 2-inch (or more) thick edge of just crust on each of our pizzas, but the taste of them more than made up for any initial disappointment.
Here’s what we tried…the Prezzemolo is a white pie topped with mascarpone, gorgonzola, thinly sliced potatoes, and parsley. Potatoes on pizza? You might think it a little strange, but it’s a revelation. This pizza was amazing! I definitely recommend trying this one if you even remotely like blue cheese and potatoes. The mascarpone and sharp gorgonzola combined with bites of creamy potato and fresh parsley made this a very lush pizza. While the flavors are rich, the sharp bite from the gorgonzola and acid from the herbaceous parsley balanced it out.
The red pizza we ordered is the Soppressata, which is topped with their simple crushed plum tomatoes, house pulled mozzarella, soppressata salami, and fresh basil. We ordered this one primarily because we knew we had to try the house made mozzarella. Again, the toppings here were seemingly simple, but so fresh and perfectly executed that it was one of the best pizzas. Sometimes clean and simple flavors are just so much better than anything overdone or super fancy. And that house pulled mozzarella was incredible – the perfect melty texture, super creamy and subtle in flavor.
Of course, we didn’t forget to save room for dessert! Since we couldn’t agree to share one cup of gelato between the two of us (because who shares one cup of gelato when you can have your own?), we each selected a flavor from the daily board. Above is the pistachio gelato that Remington chose. Normally this is my go-to ice cream because it’s a favorite, however, there was something else a little more unique that peaked my interest. Anyway, this pistachio gelato was so creamy and incredible. You could really taste the nuts in every bite in flavor and in texture. They’ve clearly perfected the recipe for a gelato that is smooth, rich, thick, and creamy.
I opted for the Amarena cherry gelato. Amareno cherries are a small bitter dark colored Italian variety grown in Bologna and Modena. They are usually bottled in syrup and used in desserts. These little fruits are luscious and intensely flavorful. This gelato was the same – luscious and intensely flavorful. Whole pieces of cherries were found throughout and the gelato itself was a lovely shade of pink. These cups of gelato were also the perfect size providing just the right amount of dessert following a satisfying meal.
We walked away satiated, but not overly stuffed after an incredible dinner. The prices are definitely not delivery pizza costs, but this is definitely many steps above takeout. Considering the quality of our meal, the fact that we got one alcoholic drink, a salad, two pizzas and two desserts – I do not think A Dopo is overpriced. We were pleasantly surprised at such a great date night for $50. We will be back again.
If you want to support another fabulous local restaurant and chef, check out A Dopo. They are located at 516 Williams Street in downtown Knoxville in an upcoming area between Magnolia and Fifth Avenue. They are around the corner from the Public House in a part of downtown that was untended not so long ago. Ample parking can be found in a lot beside the restaurant or under the interstate overpass. While they are not taking reservations, they will be using the Nowait app, which allows people to get in line remotely and sends a text when the table is ready. If you do have to wait for a table, a great way to spend your time is at nearby Public House or Crafty Bastard enjoying a drink.