Stolen Dough is a pleasant surprise, telling an emotional David vs. Goliath tale

by Gordon Shelly

I had no idea what to expect going into Stolen Dough. I only knew that this movie was being billed as a non-traditional documentary, telling an “authentic Italian American story” about a small business standing up to a powerful corporation – a real-world David vs. Goliath battle in the courts.

Stolen Dough is directed by Stefano Da Frè and it tells the story of Anthony Mongiello who filed a US patent for making stuffed pizza shells back in 1987, when he was just 18 years old. Mongiello took his patent to Pizza Hut. The pizza chain giant expressed no interest in his product; however, a short time later, in 1995, Pizza Hut launched its Stuffed Crust Pizza products, which were very similar to what Mongiello had presented to them previously.

Stolen Dough chronicles the events of Anthony Mongiello’s legal battle in his efforts to find justice as he takes on Pizza Hut in the courts.

It’s easy enough to find the outcome of this case – it’s on Wikipedia and there are plenty of archival documents available through a simple search online. However, this was not something I had been aware of, so I didn’t spoil the outcome for myself and I won’t spoil it for readers here. Stolen Dough builds to a very emotional climax in this unique docudrama, and I found it even more potent by not knowing the real-life result.

The runtime for Stolen Dough is around 45 minutes, officially making it a feature film. With that, it moves quickly and doesn’t waste time with extra padding to extend the story.

Stolen Dough combines archival footage and interviews with narrative re-creations of past events. The movie follows the tried and true formula that has been successful for the syndicated true crime format for many years. And, Stolen Dough does it well.

Da Frè serves as the narrator and Mongiello, himself, is the central character. There are additional interviews with people within Mongiello’s circle, and there are extensive recreations of events. The Pizza Hut side of the story is largely left out of the movie.

But that’s okay. We’re not invested in Stolen Dough to root for the corporate giant. The viewer is meant to sympathize with Mongiello.

As Mongiello recounts the events leading up to the climactic legal outcome, he is sincere and likeable. But most importantly, he is believable.

Is all of Stolen Dough factual? It’s hard to say. The information is presented to feel factual, and it feels very credible. But again, we are being guided by Da Frè and Mongiello to feel this way.

This is a very one-sided tale. Da Frè primarily focuses on Mongiello’s side of the story. This is not an objective journalistic approach, but an editorial choice with the intent of sharing Mongiello’s experience.

But if you’re watching Stolen Dough, you’re probably not in this for the Pizza Hut side of the story anyway. We’re here to listen to how one man took on a corporate giant for what he truly believed was a just cause.

And the outcome? You’ll have to watch Stolen Dough to find out.

Gordo’s Grade: B+