Rolling in Dough pizzas are gourmet treats, with caramelized onion, fennel sausage, grilled artichoke, bacon, figs, goat cheese, prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, olives and more, set atop a lightly charred, thin crust, all scented with a hint of wood smoke.
The company’s bright-red, 1943 K-6 International Harvester truck with a built-in brick oven is seen at beach bashes, weddings and elegant soirees all over the East End. Now, with a $250,000 2013 Mission Main Street grant from JP Morgan Chase & Co, well, let’s just say the business is set to expand like a big ball of raw pizza dough.
“This came at the perfect time,” says owner Matt Michel (pro- nounced “Michael”). “We’re growing so fast. Needless to say, it’s amazing to get this grant and be able to go to the next level.”
The business is one of 12 recipients, including a kombucha brewer and a science camp for girls, of the nationwide, $3 million annual grant, out of 35,000 entries this year. Google is a sponsor, and winners flew to the West Coast to attend a special business workshop at Google headquarters and get shiny new laptops, too.
Michel started Rolling in Dough in 2009, after college, escaping the family plumbing business to chase his dreams. He paid his dues in the North Fork restaurant industry for two years, bartending at the Frisky Oyster in Greenport and other gigs. He got the idea for his pizza truck after observing a similar service while traveling, and realizing the East End had nothing like it.
“I had an ‘Aha!’ moment, and two weeks later, I bought the truck and started the business with no money,” he says, laughing. Fortunately, family funding helped out, and he was on his way.
Last year, Michel and his red truck catered 120 private events and turned up at places like New Suffolk Beach on summer evenings during sailing races. Everything was great, except he had no professional kitchen to call home, and it was time to get off his friends’ proverbial couches. “We were basically camping in other people’s restaurants,” he says. Rolling in Dough had to stop rolling, at least where the extensive prep work for the pizzas and add-ons like salads and gelato was concerned. And it was time to plan another truck. A friend told him about the grant, so he applied. Winners were chosen on the merits of their business plans and the potential positive impact on the local community, according to the company.
Part of the money now goes to rent a space in Greenport’s Sterling Square, where PREP was last summer. There’s a fully equipped kitchen with a wood-burning oven already in place, and about 30 seats indoors and out. Along with pizza, there will be small plates, gelato and drinks. A separate lounge area in the basement has a small bar and will be a venue for the same fare and live music year-round, managed by partner in the lounge venture Lane Bubka.
“I want to create something with the same feel as the truck: fun, consistent and a good-quality product,” Michel says. “It’s a big step, a big responsibility. It’s kind of scary, but there’s just so much potential, and so many ways we can grow, it’s really exciting at the same time. It’s going to be amazing.”