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why wouldn't a pizzeria sell me their dough?

today i came across some super fragrant basil, lovely cherry tomatoes, salumi, and mozzarella, thinking i could make a lovely pizza. but with no time to make my own, i thought i'd just buy some. i called one pizzeria near my apartment (mission district of san francisco) and was told, "nnnoooo..we DON'T sell our dough." walked past another nearby and the same thing happened. i got some from a local branch of a mini-chain here, and am about to tuck into my pizza. my question is: why not sell dough? i know that it is FAR from unheard of to pick up dough from a local pizzeria, they still make some money off of basically flour, water, yeast, salt, and maybe a bit of oil, so...why not?

the first place i tried i find a bit pretentious, but it's right around the corner. the second is a fledgling business that i figure could use extra money of any sort while getting on its legs, and the third that sold it to me is, as i said, a local chain.

any pizza people out there want to weigh in on why i should reasonably expect a restaurant to refuse to sell me a ball of dough?

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  1. Once saw a sign at a pizza place, "the bank don't make pizza, and we don't cash checks." By the same token, pizza places sell pizzas, not dough. Buy dough from the grocery store.

    1. "why i should reasonably expect a restaurant to refuse to sell me a ball of dough?"

      I don't think this is a reasonable expectation. They aren't in the business of selling raw dough. They are in the business of selling fully cooked pizzas that they make according to their specifications and in their specific oven. They don't have control over the finished product if you are rolling out the dough at home, putting your own toppings on it, and baking it in your non-commercial oven, thus, they won't sell you the raw dough.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Jen76

        yeah, i get it, but i know this is not an unheard of request. what i mean is that there seems to be almost a tradition of pizzerias selling dough to customers. maybe its a regional thing. you even see tv food personalities suggesting that you ask your local pizza joint to sell you dough for a quick dinner. i understand that they are in the business of selling pizza, not pizza dough, but for a few bucks i don't see why not. i don't see it being quite the same as walking into a steakhouse and asking to buy a raw, dry-aged porterhouse. it's more like...well here in sf there are two branches of a sausage grill called rosamunde's where you can buy their sausages raw to take home and cook yourself. and again, i know i'm far from the only person asking around for dough.

        1. re: augustiner

          "but i know this is not an unheard of request. what i mean is that there seems to be almost a tradition of pizzerias selling dough to customers. maybe its a regional thing. you even see tv food personalities suggesting that you ask your local pizza joint to sell you dough for a quick dinner."

          Hmm, I have never heard of such a thing. The closest I've ever come to this was when I was in college and my mom would bring me frozen, par-baked pizzas from a local pizzeria from the town where I grew up. We had been going there from the time he first opened and had 6 tables, and we knew the owner by name. My mom told him I had moved out of state for school to a pizza-barren locale and he offered. They still weren't as good baked in my apartment oven, but it was better than what I could find here.

          1. re: Jen76

            Out here on Long Island, NY, there is a pizza joint on every block. I can (and often do) walk into any number of them to buy dough. Never had a problem. Pizza place may be in the business of selling pizza, but they will still sell you soda, garlic knots, a salad. As long as they put a healthy markup on the dough, they shouldn't mind selling it. I can understand if it might throw off availablity later at night, but I'd think this is a negligible risk.

      2. It's not at all an unheard of request- in fact I have friends who do it weekly. I've purchased dough from small pizza parlors in a couple states I've lived in no problem. Could just be that it's proprietary and they don't want to share or maybe it's not factored in to daily count when prepping. Who knows. I just keep instant yeast on hand to make a quick dough as I've found the grocery store stuff fairly unpalatable and chemically tasting. I too have a number of cookbooks that recommend picking up dough locally if you're not in to making it yourself but I guess some of the smaller places in your city aren't down with that.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ankm2

          I've heard of it too. My assumption, though, would be that you can't just walk into any pizza parlor and ask them to sell you their ingredients, any more than you'd go in and ask for some basil. They've got to already be in the business of selling raw dough/sauce to go/what have you. Some are, some aren't.

        2. Why not just order a pizza and tell them not to cook it?

          3 Replies
          1. re: beevod

            Sounds good. Just order an uncooked cheese pizza and then put your own toppings on it.

              1. re: beevod

                When I worked at pizzerias back in college we weren't allowed to sell uncooked pizzas, something to do with local health regulations and liability issues. We would occasionally partially cook a pie so the customer could finish it in their own oven, but completely raw was a no-no.

              2. here in NYC I have no problem buying dough, and i wouldn;t dream of doing it from a chain -
                as to why not but an uncooked pizza - because the point is to use your own sauce &tc....

                1. I see their point.
                  They're in business to sell pizza.
                  If you don't want to buy my pizza I'm not going to sell you dough to make your own.
                  What if other people saw you coming in buying my dough, they get the same idea and I'm selling less pizza. Buying some dough for a couple bucks may sound innocent enough, but the pizza guy doesn't want that kind of business.
                  Sure there are some places that would think nothing of selling you dough.

                  1. they still make some money off of basically flour, water, yeast, salt, and maybe a bit of oil, so...why not?
                    Considering the cost of operating a business and the effort it takes to make pizza dough, i.e....

                    50-100 pound bags of flour
                    other ingredients
                    Lifting the dough out of the mixer, cutting, portioning and packaging
                    Stand Mixer

                    The pizzerias need to maximize their return on investment. Making "some money" is not part of a sound business plan...unless they plan for it. Generating a couple of bucks for dough is not going to pay any bills for a local restaurant., especially from the few people who are looking to make pizzas at home who do not dine in their place of business or order take-out. It would cost you a few hundred to buy a decent mixer to make dough at home. A decent commercial mixer will cost in excess of $5000 and closer to $10,000. Both add considerable expense to that simple dough you deem as.....

                    "basically flour, water, yeast, salt, and maybe a bit of oil, so...why not? "

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: fourunder

                      Yes, but... If they mark up a pizza 80% and dough 150%, they're still going to come out ahead. And because the absolute dollars are so low, no one is likely to complain. When I buy pizza dough, some places charge $2, some $4. For an extra $2, I'm not grumbling about being ripped off.

                    2. Agree with others - their business is pizza, not uncooked dough. Think of the case of them perhaps selling too much dough on a given night, and having to turn away customers of pizza. Very bad for business. While some may do it, I am not at all surprised by those pizzerias that choose not to.

                      Also, I imagine the value added by manufacturing pizza from uncooked dough allows them a higher mark-up/profit on each unit sold. Sure, they could try to compensate by pushing up the price of their dough and perhaps selling it in a larger quantity, but that would undermine their business model and likely, their business.

                      1. It's also about the kind of pizza place that it is. In San Francisco, you have 2 very different kinds of pizzas and pizza places, and they have different kinds of dough. I'm guessing that the "kindof pretentious" and the "new" place are doing the fancy, wood-fired, artisan pizzas. That's a very different kind of dough (and a different kind of business) than something like a North Beach Pizza, which is doing the thicker, pillowy pizzas, and are big on delivery rather than the dining room. I'm not at all surprised that you'd get different reactions from those two places.

                        1. It's seems silly to me not to sell you the dough, especially because other pizza places do it routinely. One place in my area advertises selling uncooked pizzas.

                          But my guesses would be: (1) insurance regulations. Obviously, pizzerias are covered by liability insurance in case they give you food poisoning. Maybe the insurance company is leery of having them sell raw dough, due to concerns about the lack of control over the raw dough after it leaves the store, spoilage, and the consequent liability factor; or

                          (2) planning for the evening. Maybe they are concerned that if they start selling people dough, it will screw up their planning for how much pizza dough they will need to get through the evening; or

                          (3) lack of executive authority. Often times you can't make a deal with someone for something out of the ordinary because that person doesn't have the authority to make the deal. After all, who wants to get in trouble with hs or her boss? It's just easier to say, "No."

                          Still, it seems silly not to sell it to you.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: gfr1111

                            Still, it seems silly not to sell it to you.


                            Actually, it would seem silly to me if they did.......

                            1. re: fourunder

                              Yeah, I don't think it's customary here in the Midwest, possibly Chicago, but not elsewhere. Maybe it's a New York thing.

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                It's definitely been going on in the NYC area since I can remember (let's say the 1970's...) and probably before that. I could go out and get some right now if I wanted to, actually- it's a heck of a lot better than what you'd get at a supermarket, for sure.

                              2. re: fourunder

                                I don't even think Costco would sell you the pizza dough from their food court and they must have tons of it.

                                1. re: monku

                                  Sure, you could, but you'd have to buy it in the 10 cubic yard container!


                                2. re: fourunder

                                  I agree. To me it would be like going to a car dealership and saying "I'll take the tires on that one."

                                  1. re: fourunder

                                    yet clearly a lot of places DO. maybe it IS a regional thing.

                                3. This can be extrapolated out to the ridiculous. If they have really good sausage, why not that? How about the cheese and sauce? Finally, go into a Peter Luger's or insert here any good local steak place and order a raw steak. They're still making money, right? Where these places make money is on the wine, salads, deserts and sides.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: James Cristinian

                                    all of the intellectualization is moot in the face of the simple fact that NYC pizza places routinely sell their dough. And they are not ignorant of good business practices.

                                    1. re: thew

                                      I was not aware of that, and the original poster is from the San Francisco Bay area.

                                      1. re: James Cristinian

                                        where the poster is from isn't germane to the simple fact that pizzerias exist that sell their dough and do not go out of business

                                    2. re: James Cristinian

                                      Yes, I agree that there are some examples down the slope that are absurd. But there's an established precedent with pizza places, and while I think it's entirely reasonable for a pizza parlor to say, "No, we don't do that," I think it's fine to ask.

                                      The first time I went to a local pizza place (Gilbert Pizza), I tasted a bite of my husband's excellent caprese salad. The next time I saw the waitress, I asked if they made their own mozzarella. She was pleased that I'd noticed and confirmed that they did. I asked if there was any chance that they would sell their mozzarella for home use, fully prepared to be turned down. "Of course!" was the response, and for only $3.99/pound. I just need to give them a day's notice so I don't mess up their calculations for what they need for their own use. They also volunteered that they sell dough, too.

                                      So now, happily, I have access to truly fresh mozzarella less than a mile from my house. I make my own dough, because I built a wood-fired oven in my backyard, and at those temps I can't use dough with any sugar. But my pizzas are that much better now for having asked!

                                      It's worth noting that this is a NY style restaurant--extra evidence for a regional hypothesis?--but the actual shop is in the Phoenix area.

                                      And I still go to this restaurant. Sometimes I want their style of pizza. Sometimes I want one of their non-pizza dishes. Sometimes I want to walk to a pleasant restaurant where I can get a glass or two of wine. It's a great local resource that I want to support, in addition to being a wonderful source of mozzarella!

                                      1. re: James Cristinian

                                        We often get an uncooked steak to go from a high end steakhouse. It's seasoned and uncooked. We ordered baked potatoes with toppings on the side and salad to go. Go home, throw the potatoes in the toaster oven to keep warm while the steak is cooking and open a great bottle of red. Voila!

                                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                          Wow, that's cool.

                                          I think the point is, as others have said, it's fine to ask, but it's the business's prerogative to do it or not. The OP's question as to whether he should "reasonably" expect it...in general, I wouldn't, again, because the logical argument is that they're primarily there to sell dishes, not ingredients as a market does. If they are inclined to sell raw/prepared ingredients separately, great, but it's not a restaurant's main goal.

                                          1. re: tatamagouche

                                            I definitely agree it is the business' prerogative and they shouldn't have to justify the "no".

                                            I am in the HVAC business and people often call wanting parts to install themselves. We only sell parts we install. It's about business integrity....I'm sure it's the same for the pizza guy.

                                            I've been tempted to ask to buy enchilada sauce from my favorite Mexican place, but have never done it.

                                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                              But by the same token, Hidden Valley Ranch dressing wouldn't be sold worldwide if they didn't start by selling to people who just happened to love it and wanted some to take home. Same for KC Masterpiece.

                                              1. re: sbp

                                                Sure. Some do, some don't. But in the vast scheme of restaurants, most don't.

                                        2. re: James Cristinian

                                          The difference is, you can go to the butcher and get a good sausage/steak in minutes and cook it in minutes. Dough takes HOURS to make and rise so homemade pizza is not a weeknight option for most people. However, since I don't own a pizzeria, I'm not going to say whether it's a good idea or not because there are so many costs associated with owning a business, you really can't judge until you're in their position. But I wish more places did sell dough.

                                        3. Reason Number 65:

                                          To avoid the Post on Chowhound...

                                          "Do you believe that SOB Tony's Pizza on Main Street Charged Me $5 for Some Stinkin' Dough"

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: jfood

                                            best reply yet! (only $5? such a deal)

                                          2. I know I have bought dough from pizza places on several occasions in the past and do not recall having been turned down. Perhaps this is more common here in CT. I don't think it could be a liability issue since most super markets sell fresh, not frozen, pizza dough from local Italian bread bakers. And contrary to saying well, it's just flour water, yeast and salt, it's really flour, water, yeast, salt and at least 12 hours in the fridge for a decent dough. When I was a kid, we also bought it occasionally for fried dough, which in my house, my French Canadian father would make on Saturday mornings to be topped with butter and maple syrup.

                                            To be honest, I haven't bought dough recently from a pizza place. Whenever I order pizza, i order it half-cooked and uncut, then when we're ready to eat, I finish cooking it on the stone. I think I'll ask at my regular pizza place if they'd sell me a dough for a medium pie.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: junescook

                                              I''m in CT (New Haven County), and the local bakery sells pizza dough, no problem. The (best) local pizzeria does not.

                                            2. Those Boboli pre-made pizza crusts aren't bad in a pinch.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. Many of the NY pizzerias around me do sell their dough, although they don't advertise it. I'm in the South, but we have a huge influx of NY'ers and Philly pizza makers moving here to satisfy us Yankees who moved here but miss "our" pizza. Seems like an easy way to make a few bucks, but people are funny sometimes - especially about their food. Maybe they don't want you making a bad pizza and saying it came from their pizzeria. Who knows! :)

                                                1. Trader Joe's sells three kinds pizza dough. Anyone tried it?

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: ola

                                                    I've tried both the regular and the whole wheat. It's good... not amazing, but pretty good.

                                                  2. I guess it's a local culture thing. My local pizzeria sells their dough for $6 for a large ball - on pizza special night, the large cheese pie is $7, so I suspect they are making money on it. i usually make my own (fineliving,com I think is my favorite) and just freeze, but in a pinch, I'll buy it. Why won't your local guys sell theirs? I suspect someone else is selling it really cheap, and they don't want to compete.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                      I buy NY Pizza Dough at my local grocery store (Harris Teeter). The box says it's made in Brooklyn. Good dough, but it takes forever to thaw so it's not all that convenient.

                                                      1. re: lynnlato

                                                        you are probably right about it taking too long to thaw - it def takes a couple of hours.

                                                        Believe it or not, my super walmart has OK dough balls, near the pre-made pizza section for something like $.69. They are great in a pinch.

                                                    2. Unless it's against the law, a restaurant really can do whatever they want -- regardless of whether it makes sense to you, me, or anyone else.

                                                      One generally has to be at least a bit irrational to get into the restaurant business.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        "One generally has to be at least a bit irrational to get into the restaurant business"

                                                        Ain't that the truth! Ha!

                                                      2. I've bought it several times from a nearby pizzeria. The first time, I called and asked, and they said, sure, do it all the time--$3/lb. Only once did they turn me down,quite apologetically, b/c they were afraid they were running low that evening. The place is always busy, and we buy cooked pizzas much more often than we buy dough. I don't think they worry much about losing business b/c the occasional customer wants to make pizzas at home. OTOH, if they didn't want to sell their dough, I'd totally understand. Folks are all different in their attitudes toward their products.
                                                        I know a chef in a local upscale restaurant who can be persuaded (flattered?) into selling a jar of his salad dressing.

                                                        1. I"d love to take a poll of the pizzerias in Westchester -- I can just see Pepe's responding with anything other than a boot out the door -- but don't have the courage.

                                                          I buy my dough, when I'm too lazy to make it, at the best deli in Mamaroneck or in Morton Williams, and have never been disappointed.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                            Mouse, we've got a place in Houston called Romano's run by two cousins from Queens. I would not ask the surly Vinnie at all for the reason you mentioned. Tomorrow I'm eating at a place called Antonio's run by another NYC ex-pat. I'm not asking Antonio either, but I will ask his daughter, that is if they're not yelling at each other in Italian.

                                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                                              Sounds like you have a true taste of NY there, James Cristinian. I hope the apizza is good.

                                                              1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                The pizza was great. My wife got a calzone, something I've never tried in the thirty years I've been going there. It may have been better than the pizza. The daughter was iin a good mood, but they will not sell pizza dough. I did not press her for a reason.

                                                          2. I live outside Philadelphia. Tons of pizzarias, and many supemarkets have in-house pizzarias as well. VERY common to be able to buy dough. We sometimes buy it when we want a spur-of-the-moment-clean-the-fridge meal: cut a ball into quarters, then make free-form pies to top with whatever you've got -- tomato, basil, brie, apples, who-knows-what. Also good for spur of the moment casual entertaining. Back in the day when my kids were little, I'd often get a couple of doughs and let the kids and their friends make their own pies. Could I have made my own dough? of course, but often the urge to make pizza strikes NOW, and you needed to have started that dough a couple of hours ago.

                                                            1. Well, I can't think of any reason why not, really. It's pretty common in the Bronx, for instance. You typically either buy dough from your local independent pizza place (of course, they're a little more accommodating if you're a regular customer and they know your face) or buy pizza shells from your local Italian bakery. I don't know if this also goes on in other more populated places, but if it doesn't by you, the stuff you buy at the grocery store really isn't as bad as you think. Other option is to just be bold and make your own at home. You can store dough for a little bit if it's made properly, so give it a try. You could make it a little in advance so that you don't have to make it at the same time you make the pizza.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Kairuka

                                                                I've also done the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a day thing and kept dough in my fridge. Problem is that fresh baked dough products are so yummy (especially with lottsa buttah), I packed on way too may excess pounds. I'm back to buying my dough from the local pizza place.