L to R: Andrew Barnard, executive chef of Dolomiti, and chefs Carlos Mendez and Tim Maides, co-owners of Dolomiti.

By the time you’ve read these words, a Marana Forni rotating wood and gas oven will have travelled 4,950 miles from fair Verona, Italy, to a kitchen under construction at Millwork Commons in Omaha.

An image of Millwork Commons via Facebook

“We are going domestic, as locally as possible for everything we can. Except the oven. That was never a question. We needed this exact oven, and they’re only made in Italy,”locally renowned chef Tim Maides said.

Maides is a man who can make just about anything work, but just this once, he wasn’t willing to negotiate. An agile talent, Maides has been found behind the line at some of Omaha’s favorite eateries. Always the first to pick up a shift, take over a dropped pop-up, and fill in when a global pandemic has everyone scrambling for dear life.

“We are really lucky to live in a spot where finding the best ingredients in the world doesn’t require importing everything from other countries.” Maides said. “Especially after the pandemic, and after seeing the supply chain break. It’s important that we can build something that kind of instability won’t immediately break.”

And beyond the convenience and sustainability of sourcing closer to home, Maides found outsourcing unnecessary. “We had a lot of fun at the pizza expo,” he said, “but it definitely showed us that we can do just as good or better with products we can get domestically.”

Maides attended the 40th Annual International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas in March with his friend and business partner, Carlos Mendez. The two weren’t in Vegas for your standard boys’ weekend, but for legitimate market research for their upcoming venture, Dolomiti Pizzeria and Enoteca.

“Paul and Annette Smith have been very intentional about how they choose their partners and businesses at Millwork Commons.” Maides said. “Everything that’s being brought in is very intentional, handpicked.”

“Part of what I’ve always loved about working in the Benson area is that it’s a very diverse neighborhood, and everything that is added to Benson is community-focused and inclusive.” said Mendez, former owner of Espana and Hunger Block and current partner at Au Courant. “Millwork is working with that same model. Everything is inclusive and community driven. There is so much consideration for what each establishment is bringing to the neighborhood.”

And what Maides and Mendez are bringing to the neighborhood this fall is the Northern Italian-inspired Dolomiti Pizzeria and Enoteca. Construction is well under way on the establishment, which will reside in the Ashton building beside Coneflower Creamery. Dolomiti will offer wood-fired pizzas, paninis, and salumi, and is looking forward to playing with other offerings once its hits its stride. Enoteca translates roughly to wine library, and Dolomiti will offer a variety of wines on tap to allow diners to taste, try, and tannin-test a selection of fine flavors to complement their focused menu.

“It would be really cool to do a raclette in the winter, and to start trying some things with rye and some hard-winter wheats once it gets cold outside.” Maides said. The oven may be uniquely designed to fire the perfect pizza, but the innovative minds behind the menu have already been thinking of new ways to put those 700 degrees to work.

“We get to really play around with style here,” Maides said. “We get this perfect thin dough like a New York crust, but then we wood fire it with high heat and use a lot of Neapolitan-style meats and toppings.”

An argument could be made that Omaha has enough places to find pizza. When you’re working with one of Omaha’s favorite foods, even when you get it kind of wrong, it’s still pretty right. But Maides and Mendez have worked in Omaha’s most lauded eateries, and won’t settle for less than perfection. The men are striving toward a single-percentage improvement with every attempt. Getting 1% better than a meal that’s “good enough,” and then trying again tomorrow. In their efforts, they have sourced the best cheeses, meats, and the perfect tomatoes (outside of growing their own San Marzano in volcanic ash, which they insist wasn’t an option in Omaha)

They aren’t doing it alone. They sing the praises of investor Luis De La Vega, and of a chef they’ve pilfered from Au Courant, Andrew Barnard. Barnard’s baby face belies his years in the industry, battling in the back of the house with some of Omaha’s top talents.

“I was working at Texas Roadhouse in Ames, Iowa, when I was 16,” Barnard said. “I knew I wanted to work in the restaurant industry, but there weren’t a lot of places to work and learn in Ames at the time.” So he did what any teenager would do when not wanting to work at Texas Roadhouse anymore and moved to Germany.

When he was ready to return, it wasn’t back to his parents’ farm just outside of Des Moines. “My parents are the best,” he said. “We might end up featuring some of their produce on the menu at some point.”

Instead, he came to Omaha and worked under chef Dario Schicke at Avoli, before moving on to become the culinary coordinator at Au Courant to further his education by fire under brother and chef Ben Maides’ watchful eye.

The men of Dolomiti have soft-launched their slices at a few Omaha pop-ups, and are looking forward to bringing you the fully realized version of their vision this fall. Follow @dolomitipizza on Instagram for updates and to keep your eye on future pop-up dates.

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