A review by Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Inspired by a vacant restaurant, Alyson Williams and Yusef Walker decided they wanted to make and sell pizza. Never mind the friends-turned-business partners had little background in the art of the pie.
“I had to learn to make pizza first. That was the first challenge,” said Walker, 30, who grew up in Queens and came to Atlanta seven years ago to help his brother open Negril Village and, later, Ms. Icey’s Kitchen & Bar. He’d been looking for a solo project, and Williams, a Stone Mountain native and Howard University graduate who’d worked at Negril and Ms. Icey’s, wanted a restaurant of her own.
Heavily influenced by his favorite New York slice joint — “it’s really just a dollar pizza spot next to a Bank of America ATM on 6th Avenue” — Walker spent about four weeks experimenting with dough.
Mastering yeast was a particular hurdle. “Before, me and yeast were not friends at all,” he said, playfully. “I just had to learn to communicate with my yeast.”
Alone in a sweaty kitchen with the leavening agent, he even “meditated” with it, he said, “which was kind of weird, but it ended up working.”
Though he is credited as co-chef of Ms. Icey’s, Walker doesn’t like the word “chef.” Rather, he sees himself as a recipe developer, menu curator and kitchen manager. As far as culinary influences, the food of the Caribbean is his family legacy: Both his parents are Jamaican, though he’s quick to point out that his mom’s background is Cuban.
How would he bake all this into a pie?
“I think it’s Atlanta-style pizza, as much as I’d like to deny it,” the dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker said of the 12-inch personal-size pies they call solo Dolos. Breaking it down, he said his pies are “New York-style, with a hint of LA and the accent of the Caribbean.”
The California reference is a tribute to Nancy Silverton, the iconic Los Angeles chef whose books Walker used as pizza primers. The crust he created is thin, with a texture that’s neither crispy, like Neapolitan, nor ever-so-slightly chewy, like New York/New Jersey style. Think of it as a slim tray for carrying everything from classic marinara and mozzarella to jerk chicken, plantain, callaloo and a sauce made from Jamaican ackee fruit. The rolled edge is golden brown, and imparts a discernible crunch.
Walker uses organic, all-natural flours (including a good amount of rye, which he said plays a major role in the texture of the crust), and other healthy ingredients.
A big part of Williams’ role has been to taste Walker’s creations and give feedback. But, she’s a talented cook, too. She created the Dolita, a breakfast-perfect sandwich built on an onion-garlic bun made from leftover dough and stuffed with fillings of choice. She also came up with Sweet Dolitas — warm, puffy, doughnut-textured puffs that are covered with cinnamon sugar and served with pink hibiscus icing on the side.
After popping up at various venues, the partners landed at Gilly’s Brew Bar in downtown Stone Mountain, where they run the kitchen Wednesdays through Saturdays. They also make regular appearances every other Sunday at Our Bar ATL on Edgewood Avenue.
“We didn’t quite get the restaurant just yet,” Williams said of the empty space that prompted the project. “It just means it’s not time for it. And, now we know how to make really good pizza.”
Menu: pizza, some with Caribbean flair
What I ordered: Black and Vital pizzas; half-and-half pizza with half a Matey and half a Mr. Rager; Dolita sandwich with egg, chorizo and mozzarella; Sweet Dolitas; aji verde and honey cruff dipping sauces. My favorite pizza was the Mr. Rager (crema, mushrooms, bacon, goat cheese, cilantro); I think it was the bacon! The Black pizza uses activated charcoal in its pesto; it’s beautiful, intriguing and delicious. The Sweet Dolitas pair wonderfully with coffee, while the Dolita sandwich makes an excellent breakfast. The takeaway: Dolos is an elegant and original concept.
Service options: takeout or delivery via DoorDash and Grubhub
Outdoor dining: yes, Gilly Brew Bar is a lovely, two-story building, with patios on both levels for Dolos patrons
Mask policy: yes, for employees and patrons
Address: at Gilly Brew Bar, 5329 Mimosa Drive, Stone Mountain; no phone
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays at Gilly; 7 p.m.-midnight every other Sunday at Our Bar ATL, 339 Edgewood Ave. SE, Atlanta