It’s damnear impossible to talk pizza with anyone in Little Rock without hearing mention of Damgoode Pies. The much-celebrated local pizza mini-chain has clearly won the favor of many an Arkansan. What’s more, Damgoode has even earned the praise of The Food Network, being listed as the “must-try” pie for the entire state of Arkansas (how much stock to place in these national lists or the Food Network’s opinions on what constitutes “the best” is clearly a highly subjective matter). But pizza, a food which I, like countless others, sincerely adore, is likely always a hotly disputed matter. What constitutes the highest, most pristine form a pizza can take is an issue being argued all over America. I’m no New Yorker, I’m no Chicagoan, and I’ve not an ounce of Italian in me, but I have my personal preferences, as I’m sure you do to. As far as Damgoode goes, I will say this, it is not the greatest pizza in Arkansas. Is it decent? Sure, but it is also afflicted with the flaws which infest thousands of other pizza joints in America. Allow me to make my case.
First, I should point out that Damgoode’s signature “pink sauce” is admittedly pretty good. I enjoy the slightly creamier aspect it brings to the pie, and the touch of spice in the sauce makes me wish they would consider bottling and selling the addictive pink elixir. Unfortunately, Damgoode’s grapple for greatness ends with this sauce, and there are too many pizza sins hidden underneath the thin layer of tomato to go completely unnoticed.
Most Damgooders will advise you to try the “Stuffy Underdog” at some point in your life. This is no light-hearted commitment. It’s one hefty pie, both in mass and price (the 14-inch will run you close to $30 without tip). The lovely pink sauce, in this case, gets smeared on the upper exterior of the double-crusted pie, entirely separated from cheese, meat, and all other ingredients. But, beyond the sauce, it’s difficult not to take issue with this pie.
The crust is doubly faulty. The upper crust, the layer supporting the sauce never gets properly cooked, instead it often ends up rather gummy and soft. Conversely, the bottom layer comes out tough, chewy, and rather uninspired. The stuffy is most fit for fork and knife, but I found that it required an excessive amount of fork torque to get through the crust completely. Additionally, I found it no more flavorful than any other average pie, assembled by any average pimple-faced teen in Average Town, USA. It’s the same crust you’ll find at thousands of mediocre pizza joints across the country. The egregious amount of cheese shoved into this pie makes it difficult to appreciate much of anything else going on within. I think there was some form of protein (beef, perhaps) and some rare flecks of vegetable matter as various points, but these were drearily overshadowed by the massive amounts of coagulated casein.
The best pizza, a truly inspirational pizza, is about balance. Simple, inherently flavorful crust made from the finest ingredients. Minimally manipulated, freshly crushed tomatoes. A restrained, but properly proportioned amount of handmade cheese. And a limited number of toppings. Great pies laugh in the face of the stuffed-crust, meat-lovers, barbecue-sauced, and ranch-dressing dipped pizzas of the world. Unfortunately, in this case, Damgoode Pies is more likely to be at the butt-end of this joke.