About TriBecca Allie
It started with an oven.
When Rebecca and Damian Van Oostendorp moved to Mississippi from New York, their search for satisfying pizza came up short again and again. A little research helped them make pizza at home that far surpassed what they could find elsewhere. But the more they learned and tested and tasted, the more they felt convinced: To create the pizza they truly craved, they would need a wood fired oven. So Damian—everyone calls him Dutch—built one in their backyard.
Once you’ve talked with Dutch awhile, his building a personal pizza oven seems a natural progression. He strives for constant improvement even seven successful years after opening TriBecca Allie Café in Sardis, Mississippi.
“Every time I make a pizza, I want it to be the best I’ve ever made,” he says. “It should be better than the one I made right before it.”
TriBecca’s current dough recipe was five years in the making. On the rare occasion that he takes time away from the restaurant to participate in culinary competitions, Dutch makes it his priority to listen and learn from other cooks.
Dutch and Rebecca had no plans for a restaurant when they followed Rebecca’s parents to Sardis almost 20 years ago. Rebecca was a professional swim coach, and Dutch was a PGA golf pro. It’s when I ask why they opened TriBecca Allie Café that I note Dutch’s gift for simplifying complexities.
After he built the backyard oven in 2003, he and Rebecca began baking bread and schiacciata (an Italian flatbread) along with the pizzas they’d learned to craft. They sold them at the Midtown Farmers’ Market in Oxford where customers urged them to open a restaurant. Simple as that, to hear him tell it.
Dutch strips the science of pizza-making down to the essentials, too. “It’s all time and temperature,” he explains, and these elements hinge on the wood fired oven. A fire to one side and a dome-shaped ceiling allow for three modes of heat transfer: radial, conductive and convective. This means a simply dressed pizza bakes in about ninety seconds.
The more he talks about manning the oven, though, the more animated and descriptive Dutch grows. He divulges that his oven is “a part of the staff,” not just a piece of equipment. It requires constant attention and forethought. Without knobs, switches or thermometers, a cook must gauge temperature by sight and by feel; he must think ahead to judge how much wood to add and when. “It’s almost primal,” Dutch confesses. “It’s simple—time and temperature—but it isn’t easy.”
He’s talking about cooking, but this philosophy of simplicity permeates Dutch’s management of TriBecca. He laments that many prosperous restaurants eventually try to do too much, to make too many people happy, and the quality of the food suffers. He recognizes, for example, that there are 11 regional styles of pizza and that not every customer expects the thin, slightly charred crust that comes out of a wood fired oven. Still, he sticks to the Italian style of pizza he has perfected over nearly two decades.
His streamlined strategy works well. He opens the restaurant during peak hours—for lunch on weekdays and dinner on weekends—and uses the remaining time to prep and handle the business side of the restaurant. The limited hours keep overhead down, and the small staff benefits from a full house during most of their shifts. Even TriBecca’s location attests to its uncomplicated ambition. Since Sardis locals frequent the place during lunch year-round, TriBecca mostly avoids the dramatic swings in business that plague restaurants in university-centric towns like Oxford.
Weekends do see plenty of visitors from surrounding areas like Batesville, Oxford, Collierville, Tennessee, and Helena, Arkansas. Despite his pride that TriBecca’s reputation draws distant diners, though, Dutch admits he’s wary of what he calls “the travel channel effect”: when fame from well-intentioned reviews suddenly overwhelms a small, family restaurant. While popularity can bring prosperity, a restaurant’s regulars—the folks who “have flesh in it”—often lose a sense of ownership along the way. Keeping it simple isn’t easy.
Dutch’s reservation is well-founded as upscale pizza places, from Nashville’s City House to Oxford’s own Saint Leo, garner increasing attention across the South. Perhaps being situated in Sardis, miles off the cotton-lined highway, will be TriBecca’s saving grace.
Perhaps we should keep it quiet, just in case.
A TRIBUTE TO TRIBECCA ALLIE BY FIONA GISPEN - DEC 2011
TriBecca Allie opened bright in the morn', 7 am, the doors opened to swarms
Of Sardis folks of all shapes and all sizes. Walked right in, couldn't believe their eyeses!
Now It's a glimmering, glittering beautiful shop, You can't just walk by; you have to stop.
For savory scents waft through the air, I spy Pizzas! and Pastas! and Cobblers! in there.
The brick-oven heats the place up; it's toasty. You smell flour & butter & thyme, but mostly
You notice the faces of the owners/cooks, Cause they're beaming. Tri B once & you're hooked.
Marimekko art hangs on the walls, You hear New York mixed with Southern drawls,
And chattering diners grin ear to ear, Simply because they've made it here.
And the pizza, OH MY! It's so... so delicious. It's my third wish (on my list of three wishes).
Ingredients? Tasty. Fresh. Avante garde. My personal favorite? Magnolia. Five stars.
So brown bag your wine and hop in your car, It's worth the drive from near or far.
To see and hear and smell and taste, This hidden, sparkling gem of a place.
See you soon at TriBecca Allie!
Fiona Gispen - 12/2011
From the Press
"TriBecca Allie is one of Mississippi's Hidden Culinary Gems...Despite his pride that TriBecca’s reputation draws distant diners, though, Dutch admits he’s wary of what he calls “the travel channel effect”: when fame from well-intentioned reviews suddenly overwhelms a small, family restaurant. While popularity can bring prosperity, a restaurant’s regulars—the folks who “have flesh in it”—often lose a sense of ownership along the way. Keeping it simple isn’t easy...Perhaps being situated in Sardis, miles off the cotton-lined highway, will be TriBecca’s saving grace."
"As owners of TriBecca Allie, Damian “Dutch” and Rebecca van Oostendorp have built a little pizza shop with a big reputation, drawing customers from all around north-central Mississippi—because, as folks in these parts will tell you, Dutch’s award-winning Magnolia Rosa Insalata and Rebecca’s famous Triple-Layer Lasagna make the long drive worthwhile...It also helps that the van Oostendorps have ingrained themselves into the community like true lifers. They’re not just there to take your money. They want to feed you and send you home full and happy. And they want to see Sardis thrive—not just because it’s good for business, but also because small-town life, they believe, is good for the soul.
"TriBecca Allie Cafe offers authentic New York style, wood-fired, national award winning pizza, which is all you really need to know. I’ve tried about every pizza on the menu by now and you really just can’t go wrong. If you want something original try the “Magnolia Rosa Insalata” covered in four cheeses ( including whole milk mozzarella and pecorino romano), red onion, pine nuts, mixed greens in a house-made balsamic vinagrette, and Mississippi pecans. Another unique option is the “Palate” pizza with thin slized potatoes, olive oil, mozzarella, cheddar, chives, and creme fraiche."
Side note: Dutch & Rebecca also own B&D Bungalows, with fully furnished short-term vacation and corporate housing rentals here in Sardis, MS. Click here to be redirected to the B&D Bungalows website. Thanks!