One of Las Vegas’s best-known pizzaiolos has opened a new pizza place in Las Vegas’s Chinatown. With joyously bubbly and crispy crust, cocktails on tap, and creamy tiramisu, Michael Vakneen is dishing his meticulously baked Tokyo-style Neapolitan pizzas inside his new Double Zero Pie & Pub.
Vakneen splits his time between Double Zero, Pop-Up Pizza at the Plaza Hotel & Casino, and his California venture, Truly Pizza, with Metro Pizza powerhouses John Arena and Chris Decker. The chef, who describes himself as “obsessed with dough,” set to develop a dough that pushed the boundaries of what one may find in a traditional Neapolitan-style pizza crust. “I really wanted to represent what’s going on at the forefront of wood-fired pizzas,” says Vakneen. “Tokyo-style is a progressive Neapolitan pizza made with obsessive and perfectionist techniques.”
He says that there exists a subculture of pizza baking at a masterful level in Tokyo. The chef says that by using a very finely milled double zero flour with natural starters, extended fermentation, and hand-rolling techniques to stretch the dough without overmixing, he’s able to achieve a fluffy and light crust with enough texture to hold up to toppings without becoming soggy or soupy.
Using the wood-fired crust as a base, Vakneen serves pizza in expected varieties and some that feel entirely new. The funghi pizza comes with a white sauce, mozzarella, and deeply browned mushrooms. The pizza is a less-is-more approach, with mushrooms roasted low and slow with garlic butter, resulting in an almost meaty texture. Vakneen is also proud of one pizza layered with white sauce, speck, mozzarella, fig jam, and candied pecans — the salty cured pork made more vibrant by the sweet jam. The heat of the diavola pie, with red sauce and spicy sausage, is cut by the lightly blackened and slightly salty crust.
In a city that has been steadily gaining notoriety as a great pizza town — in part due to the International Pizza Expo, which will celebrate its 40th year in Las Vegas next year — and pizza restaurants around the Las Vegas Valley that put out exceptional takes on everything from Detroit-style to Chicago-style to Neapolitan-style, Vakneen hopes Double Zero will become part of that ongoing conversation. “I started to get a name for myself and representing Las Vegas,” says Vakneen. “We have a really great location here on Spring Mountain and access to tourism. My vision and goal is to be on the world stage when it comes to progressive Neapolitan pizza.”
In addition to the nine pizzas, all of which go for about $20, Double Zero also has a Caprese salad with tomatoes three ways — pickled, sun-dried, and fresh, salad with croutons made from crust, and creamy tiramisu for dessert. The bar has beer and wine on tap, as well as cocktails like one with Japanese and American whisky with soda and another with whiskey, rye, yuzu, and lemon. The interior, which used to be the German street food restaurant Wolf Down, has been redecorated with a brick-covered industrial style.
Double Zero Pie & Pub is open at 3853 Spring Mountain Road from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.