We were directed to Dr. Ho’s by Ronald and Peggie Turner of Turner’s Ham House up in Fulks Run. These two, whose culinary cred is impeccable (Turner hams cannot be beat), told us that Dr. Ho serves the best pizza for miles around.
While we haven’t tried a lot of Virginia pizzerias, we can attest that these pies are swell. They have a thin, flavorful crust that is a balance of crunch and chew, and the toppings we’ve sampled are first-rate, from meatballs to locally made andouille sausage. The combo you don’t want to miss is called Bellissima, a gloss on the traditional margherita pizza that also includes arugula, lemon vinaigrette, and thin shavings of sugar-cured country ham from – where else? – Turner’s Ham House. It is a bewitching combo, the ham a Virginia analog of fine prosciutto di Parma.
Pizza is just one portion of a menu that has a strong regional accent. Crispy grits-n-greens, for instance, is spinach, salsa, and red quinoa made flavorfully local with triangles of crisp-edged grits cakes. We also unequivocally recommend pickled okra and country ham salad, spicy fried calamari with sesame ginger vinaigrette, and roasted sweet potato salad. Burgers are formed of Virginia beef and available stuffed with sharp cheddar cheese; Parmesan risotto fritters are condimented with butternut squash/apple puree; mango tarts come topped with lemon-honey cream cheese, fig jam, and caramel.
Every dessert I’ve had is impressive, foremost among them a baroque chocolate-cookie caramel ice cream sandwich drizzled with chocolate sauce for which a fork is necessary. At the other end of the spectrum is a dessert that is simple and perfect: hot milk cake. This is a home-cooking classic, so straightforward that it rarely appears on restaurant menus and is often referred to, even in vintage cookbooks, as “old fashioned” hot milk cake. Made right, as it is here, and crowned with uncomplicated buttercream frosting, it is not even a little extravagant. It is moist, eggy, and ingenuous – a mother’s-hug Dixie classic.
Dr. Ho’s is a big, roomy place designed to look like a converted old garage. It has a lively semi-open kitchen, exposed heat ducts, vintage signs on the wall, bare tables and unupholstered chairs and booth benches.