By Patrick Newson

Traditionally, an osteria is a place to enjoy the simple delights of food, wine, and community. Throughout Italy, these small and casual establishments have long been a way to enjoy typical regional cuisines in an accessible and informal way. For Rocky Maselli, owner of Osteria DOP, this idea was paramount in the development of his restaurant, which has been open now for just over a year. Similarly, DOP, a reference to “Denominazione d’Origine Protetta” — a legally enforced standard of regional quality for specific cheeses, cured meats, and olive oils — is a key concept in the sourcing and preparation of ingredients and menu items, which in Maselli’s case is heavily reflective of Southern Italy, and particularly Naples.

The massive Neapolitan wood-fired pizza oven, imported from Italy and covered in custom mosaic tiles, prominently occupies the center of the restaurant. It is certainly an eye-catcher, but it’s also key to the rapid functionality of the place. The eatery’s open concept, with a series of small tables and bar seating around the edges, is reminiscent of a busy pizzeria Napoletana.

“Things happen quickly here,” says Maselli, referring to the speed of pizza cooking — 90 seconds — but also to the pace of service. “This is a casual alternative to counter service, where the pizza comes out fast and the pasta is made to order.”

Behind the oven and adjacent to the stacks of firewood lining the wall is a large common table facing the kitchen. This is where the magic happens, where the pizza dough and pasta are made during the day and which also serves as a pantry and prep kitchen for the food truck.

Maselli originally moved to Eugene in 1998 to help open Marché, a Eugene institution, where he stayed on as chef until 2010. He later opened Osteria Sfizio before moving to the Bay Area to open a second location of San Francisco’s acclaimed A16 restaurant in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood. During that transition, Maselli also traveled to Italy and achieved VPN (Vera Pizza Napoleatana) designation, which guarantees that only wood-fired ovens are permitted and the dough is made of only four ingredients: flour, sea salt, fresh yeast, and water. Making the pizza dough is a three-day process at DOP.

Maselli returned to Eugene with plans to open a food truck as a jumping-off point for an eventual brick-and-mortar restaurant. And his timing was impeccable. Pizzeria DOP opened in mid-2020 as a mobile, outdoor restaurant offering only take-out pizzas, perfect for pandemic times. However, the goal was always in sight, and in January 2023 the osteria finally opened its doors.

Dinner at DOP is a multi-course affair, beginning with a round of aperitivi and antipasti. Using a QR-code to order your negronis and a few salads presents the challenge of balancing the “alternative to counter service,” as Maselli calls it, with upscale pricing and fine-dining quality. However, a negroni and a glass of orange wine paired brilliantly with the unbreaded and gently-fried cauliflower on a bed of arugula with pockets of golden raisins and toasted pine nuts. Similarly refreshing was the piselli, a sugar-snap pea salad dressed with a yogurt sauce and garnished with crispy peppers, mint, and onions (pickled and fried). By the time we remembered to order the next appetizer, beautifully light and delicate polpette — lamb, pork, beef, and ricotta meatballs braised in a bright tomato sauce — it was time for another glass of Southern Italian wine, the only region represented on Osteria DOP’s wine menu.

The stars of the show, of course, were the wood-fired pizzas and fresh pastas. From the chef’s table in the back, we could see the variety of dishes as they finished and came out to the other patrons, but we ultimately went with the paccheri, a large tube-shaped pasta originally from Campania with albacore, capers, and bottarga (salted, cured fish roe), and a ricotta gnocchi in a braised beef sauce. Our pizza, light and clean and perfectly fired, featured braised endive, lots of garlic, and anchovies, achieving a perfect flavor balance of salty and earthy and oily. To finish, we shared a flight of digestivi featuring bitter and sweet amaro, culled from Maselli’s extensive collection of after-dinner beverages. Everything felt paced and casual and indelibly classic, like a well-orchestrated composition, which at Osteria DOP, is the theory for encouraging patrons to return to the simple satisfaction and comfort of a quality meal.

Osteria DOP, 1122 Oak Street, pizzeriadop.com