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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 33.0° F  Overcast
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Campus calzones hot at D.P. Dough in downtown Madison
Pockets of stuffed bread are best straight out of the oven
The calzones come with a tiny side of dipping sauce, with your choice of ranch, bleu cheese, BBQ, hot, marinara and honey mustard.
Credit:Linda Falkenstein

D.P. Dough already seemed to be doing a brisk delivery business at noon on Moving Day, August 15; the delivery guy parked his car in the construction zone in front of the storefront when I went in, and was already leaving weighted down with orders before my lunch order came up. This not to be confused with D.P. Dough's build-your-own calzone, which is also called a "Construction Zone" -- as other entrees are saddled with monikers like "Danger Zone" and "Falling Rock Zone."

"D.P. Dough delivers calzones, the pizza alternative" -- as it says on its menu, to-go box, and website.

That's not to say you can't eat your food there, located just off State Street on Gilman. Beer specials lure in the after-study set, and two flat screen TVs and a counter-size Pac-Man game will entertain the eat-in crowd. Vibrant Badger-red walls, a few tables, and two areas of counter seating don't seem made for long sessions discussing Schopenhauer, or for that matter, the Olympics.

That said, D.P. Dough's calzones are passable. They are each made from scratch to your order, as you can see if you wait near the front counter; the fresh dough aroma is the best thing about them. Once you dig in, it's food pleasure, but of a limited sort. The dough is chewy, the cheese tastes more or less like American whether it is cheddar, mozzarella or actually American, and the fillings are sparing.

My breakfast "ham 'n egg zone" (served all day, even until 3 a.m.) had a superficial comfort food effect, but it was no match for the similar breakfast pasties served up the street at Myles Teddywedgers (which I described as "like a super quiche, or a quiche mated with a calzone"). Overall D.P dough's version of a breakfast calzone doesn't taste very much different from an Egg McMuffin.

The calzones come with a tiny side of dipping sauce, with your choice of ranch, bleu cheese, BBQ, hot, marinara and honey mustard. I forgot to specify and ended up with marinara, a slightly sweet, not-too-heavy sauce with plenty of tomato flavor that was quite good, although not really the right balance with the breakfast calzone.

I like the marinara with the more classic calzones (conveniently found under "classics" on the menu!) like the Mangus Zone (pepperoni, peso, tomatoes, mozzarella and spinach) or the Italian zone (salami, ham, pepperoni, mozzarella and ricotta). Zones are also available in chicken; the cordon bleu (breaded chicken with ham, American and mozzarella) with the hot sauce and bleu cheese dressings mixed isn't half bad, either. And of course there's no reason you can't make up your own zone from all of D.P.'s 28 ingredients, which frankly sounds like the most fun. Calzones are all $6.29, including that invent-your-own Construction Zone (for up to four fillings).

D.P. Dough also has a collection of salads to balance those carbs: chef, garden, spinach, Caesar and chicken Caesar, classic, and Greek ($5-$6.50). The spinach salad was, like the calzone, passable, with spinach leaves that seemed fresh enough at first glance but lacked any discernable taste of spinach. It was topped with bacon crumbles and slices of fresh hard boiled egg. The low-fat sun dried tomato vinaigrette turned out to be very sweet, without much sun-dried tomato taste, but a passable substitute for the traditional sweet-vinegary hot bacon dressing.

It has not escaped my attention that I have resorted to the term "passable" three times to describe D.P. Dough's food. It sums it up -- it's not terrible, but you could do better. You could also do a lot worse. The 'zones taste good fresh out of the oven and the food's relatively inexpensive. And they deliver.

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