The baseball coach on The Bad News Bears was more than happy to receive 00 as his uniform number, but in spite of that inauspicious association, the flour of the same name is prized for its fine quality and low gluten content, which reduces elasticity in the eventual dough. “Doppio Zero” technically falls outside the one-to-zero range of Italian flours the way cranking the knob up to 11 should have no effect on volume, but the results are unmistakable: This is the source of quality pizza and pasta.
Forming the basis of the month-old Hayes Valley restaurant of the same name — a successor to the first two Doppio Zeros in Mountain View and Cupertino — its baby-powder texture goes hand-in-glove with a domed oven that churns out pulcinella and fungo pizzas, its name helpfully spelled out in white-on-black mosaic. A fastidiously Neapolitan restaurant, it occupies the former Caffe Delle Stelle space, a real sawdust-wheezer that had occupied the well-traveled corner of Gough and Hayes since the mid-1990s, when the real estate wasn’t quite so sought-after. Without a doubt, Doppio Zero is a better fit for the Hayes Valley of today (and I say that as a lover of the time-warp that is Il Borgo, three blocks west). And owners Gianni Chiloiro and Angelo Sannino also run nearby Meatball Bar, whose first location is downtown.
But if you’re expecting wine-filled languor, think again. Service is briskly professional rather than warm, especially if you stop in on a night when the opera or the symphony are running and it’s obvious that Doppio Zero is trying to manage a minimum of two turns per table. On one visit, we were asked twice if we’d decided on a drink before anyone had really had a chance to get settled, let alone look at the menu. This writer is a speed-eater who knows the restaurant industry is a volume business, but it is simply unpleasant to feel that rushed. Unless you’re dressed for Tosca, go at an off-hour or else mosey on down to Salt & Straw for dessert.
And on the whole, the pastas eclipse the pizzas, which tend to suffer from the Supreme Paradox. That is to say, however spotted and tangy the crust, and however flavorful the individual ingredients, they’re so often overloaded with toppings that the entire central section softens and forfeits its chew, making the quantity and amount of toppings seem inadvisable in hindsight. This is certainly the case with the capricciosa, a medley of ham, Italian salami, artichokes, mushroom, black olives, basil, and flor di latte ($18). It’s overblown and limp, and the livelier fungo (wild mushrooms, goat cheese, fontina, thyme, truffle oil, and chilies, $18) is only marginally less so. If the pizza experience for you is all about that double-zero, keep it simpler — but by the same measure, you can light a fire under anything with a few dashes of homemade chili oil from the cruet.
But Doppio Zero’s pastas are terrific across the board. The bottarga with clams ($20) was truly a marvel, the clams coming unfastened from their shells at the slightest touch and al dente spaghetti bursting with garlic and Italian chilies. There’s cured roe in the mix as well, an ingredient you may have to squint to see, but there’s a reason it plays a walk-on part; a little bit does the trick. Only a little less delightful was the considerably heartier fettuccine wild boar ($18), a mound of feral pasta the same shape as the oven and with a studiously concentrated flavor. In spite of the lamb ragu, a plate of gnocchi angello ($19) was mild by comparison, but a perfectly rustic $18 beef lasagna was the workhorse: hardly pretty to look at, but a big ol’ dish you’re going to need to share.
There was a regrettable $28 monkfish special one night that felt like the fruit of poor planning, as if it had just arrived as a bonus with the usual seafood order and nobody really knew what to do with the poor man’s lobster besides roll three chunks of it up and drop them in some tomato-cream sauce. But it was a one-off. Apart from some little signature moves around the edges, few things at Doppio Zero are wildly imaginative, although the execution tends to be both precise and comforting.
A few of the smaller dishes are stellar, too. Cavolfiore ($10), a warm cauliflower salad with black currants and roasted pine nuts, shone underneath its dusting of bread crumbs. It would have been what the Neapolitan Puritans brought to the first Thanksgiving, if Naples and Puritanism weren’t diametrically at odds. A beautiful portion of burrata served alongside a caponata-esque preparation of eggplant ($12) was also lovely, the acid and fat perfectly measured out foils for one another. (Spread it on some bread.) Even borderline-ordinary things like potato croquettes with gruyere and parmesan atop a truffle fondue ($9) are light and airy without feeling like little cannonballs in the belly, and a grilled octopus over arugula with just a bit of lemon and anchovy ($16) feels like summer incarnate.
With some fun red wines at very reasonable price points, like a Serrapetrona Quacquarini for a mere $13, you can bounce your way through the pastas with aplomb. Better still are drinks like the Averna’s Cup, a $13 aperitif that’s like an Italian Pimm’s Cup with a lengthwise slice of cucumber diagonally placed around the inside of the glass like a barber pole. Just make sure you have enough breathing room to enjoy it with adequate time to spare.
Doppio Zero, 395 Hayes St., 415-624-3634 or dzpizzeria.com