Agnolotti pasta at the Dough Room
Photos by Kevin Kramer
Downtown Wayzata’s restaurant scene is extensive and reputable: the trendy French bistro Bellecour, the see-and-be-seen lakeside Cov, the high-end steakhouse Gianni’s. So when news of a pasta-and-pizza place came, you can understand why there was excitement.
And while chef Alex Dayton’s The Dough Room is excellent, it is certainly more than I expected when I heard “pizza and pasta.” Think more Monello than Mucci’s, more white tablecloth than red-and-white checkered.
Inside the Dough Room
This is high-concept, high-end pasta-making with a price tag to match. The agnolotti bolognese is no giant bowl of meat-sauced noodles: Instead, it’s a work of art. Stuffed with a bold ragu of ground beef bolognese, these beautiful little pockets of pasta have kale worked into the dough to turn the pasta as green as a Minnesota balsam fir tree. The layers of fresh and crispy Parmesan in the filling make for a terrific bite. This is the pasta Dayton says he had in mind when he came up with this concept.
“I’m obsessed with flour and water,” says the veteran of several San Francisco restaurants and local hotspots like Butcher & the Boar and Borough. “I can make the dough, cook the dough, put anything inside it what I want to.”
These tempting coils of bigoli pasta are prepared with butter, Parmesan, and black pepper.
Similar artistry is on display with the lumache. A bold orange (from dehydrated carrots), this snail-shaped pasta is the perfect base for tender, lightly smoked braised chicken, served on a mirepoix of vegetables, with rutabaga and whey. There’s a delicate touch required to get the perfect amount of flour into dough to create a rich flavor, a smooth consistency, and a bite that has you wanting more.
And trust me, Dayton’s pasta will have you wanting more. Not just because it’s delicious, but because these are fine-dining portion sizes. That agnolotti? $19 for 16 quarter-size bites. Two cannelloni filled with duck confit will run you $23. The value question arises because the Dough Room isn’t just a fine-dining pasta restaurant. It’s also a pizza restaurant, mostly because the previous occupant (District Fresh Kitchen) had a pizza oven.
A Steak Pizza with a Collins cocktail
Again, Dayton’s prowess with dough creates a very tasty pizza crust. He begins with a sourdough starter, so there’s a little bit of funk and tang in there, which holds up well to bold toppings. Calabrian chili and red onion crank up the flavor on a strong fennel sausage pizza. The $17 price tag for an 11-inch, plate-size pie is in line with high-end pizza spots like Pizzeria Lola and Red Wagon Pizza.
In fact, Dayton’s friends Pete and Jacquie Campbell from Red Wagon consulted on the restaurant, helping design the menu and the space. The room is beautiful. It feels elegant, with the open kitchen the center of attention and visible from every seat.
Small plates are very good: Dayton rolls pork loin slices, leaves a nice, thin cap of fat on top, lightly applies onion vinaigrette, and finishes with a dusting of onion ash. The burrata is made in house with an aged Aceto balsamic vinegar and served with dried prosciutto. The iceberg salad was an unusual mess, however: a pile of chopped lettuce and parmesan crouton crumbs with a rich egg yolk emulsion and vinaigrette dressing. Compared to the other beautifully composed dishes, this one stood out.
You’ll find a very-expensive, grass-fed steak on the menu (when we visited, it was in the $60 range) and a solid, if non-memorable, $39 braised short rib. Dayton told me he’d like to compete in the same category as Bellecour, but in some ways, he’s bringing the opposite. Bellecour brings fine-dining expectations, and you get a more-casual and (relatively) affordable experience. At the Dough Room, you expect casual pizza and pasta and instead find fine dining. It’s fantastic: but I left thinking about the dough I spent in Wayzata—instead of the dough I ate.
The Dough Room
300 Superior Blvd., Wayzata
Available online. Private dining also available.
Sunday-Tuesday, 4-9 p.m.
Wednesday-Saturday, 4-10 p.m.
Hard to choose just one, honestly. The pasta comes in many vivid color combinations: @thedoughroommpls