Food | June 2014
Tribecca Allie Cafe
The Vanoostendorps discuss good pizza, the art of baking, and their SEC Championship win.
Story by M.B. Sellers
Photos by Terry Sweeney
Visting TriBecca Allie Café for the first time feels like you’ve stepped back a couple of decades to a heartier and more wholesome way of life. Located on Main Street in Sardis, MS, it is quaint and red-bricked, welcoming with its colorful hues and small town charm. TriBecca opened its doors in January of 2010, after three years of renovation. The building was originally a post office at one point. After a few more reincarnations, it was finally transformed by owners Dutch and Rebecca Vanoostendorp, into a home for all things savory—and one of the best pizza places in Mississippi.
Both Rebecca and Dutch are New York natives, and the idea of owning a pizza place didn’t register for a quite some time. “Dutch built a brick oven in our backyard, and we started baking breads. Then, we started selling bread at the Oxford Farmer’s Market,” Rebecca explains. “We started doing dry pizzas for the football games—like pizzas without red sauce, and just fresh vegetables and things, and people were really excited about them.”
The building happened to be for sale, and they opted to buy it with their business partner. They began renovations, and Dutch built the brick ovens in the walls of the place. Soon enough, the pair was nominated for the American Pizza Championship, held in Orlando, FL, in 2010. They took home second place.
Rebecca thinks that their pizza differs from a lot of the ones in their area for a good many reasons: “It’s our own recipe for the dough, and it’s made every day, and it’s our own sauce recipe, which isn’t a super heavy sauce. And the ingredients are super fresh.” Fresh, meaning that they try to get as many local ingredients as possible. “We have a farmer here in Sardis that we deal with for certain vegetables, depending on the season. The cheese is the highest grade cheese you can buy. So everything that we do in our restaurant is from the ground up. Everything that comes out to the table has gone through either Dutch’s hands or my hands.”
Each pizza is baked directly on the oven floor, in a brick oven, in front of a live fire, which runs between 600-800 degrees. It’s this single-minded loyalty to doing things organically that makes the duo power-players when it comes to their craft. “It’s complex, for such a simple food,” Dutch says.
The restaurant also competed and won first place in the SEC Championship, which was held during the 2nd Annual Oxford Craft Beer Festival. TriBecca Allie Café competed against five other pizzerias, and represented the Rebels in the competition. “Culinary competitions are kind of a strange animal. Food is a very subjective thing,” Dutch says. They will be travelling to the World Pizza Championships, which is held in Italy, next year in April, as a part of the U.S. Pizza Team.
TriBecca Allie Café’s unique recipes are also backed by a unique name, as well. Rebecca explains, “My business partner is Allison, and we have an alley on the side of the building, and my name is Rebecca, but TriBecca is an area in New York. So we just spelled it differently. We worked on the name for like three years.” Learning how to make these specialty pizzas has been a trial and error process for both of them, which has culminated into an amazing, one-of-a-kind recipe. They took inspiration from the kind of pizza that was reminiscent of their early lives in New York, and went from there. “We really wanted to develop a crust when we started cooking, that would be similar to what we grew up with. So, we were playing in our oven for quite a while with different breads and stuff, and with different pizza dough… Neither of us had ever done that before,” Rebecca says.
In regards to baking, Dutch posits that it’s a formulaic process. Rebecca is his “taster” and he goes from there with tweaking its respective variables. “You really have to understand what variable needs to change to bring about the desired change,” he says. “We ultimately came back to the same one [recipe], because a great pizza dough or great bread isn’t necessarily just the ingredients. It’s how the dough is mixed, how long it’s mixed, and how cold you keep it. There are so many other variables that often get overlooked. And then you come to this perfect storm of variables that you know you want. You just have to do it that way each and every time, and not be afraid of it,” he concludes.