It always interests me as to the motivation for “toy choices”. Why this thing and not that?
When our good friends, Barbara and Steve, told us about their new “construction project”– an outdoor wood burning Pizza Oven, I was intrigued immediately. For Pizza lovers, this is the “toy of toys”. I just had to know everything about this so that I could share it with you. When they graciously asked us to come by to see and sample, I knew this would be a treat, and I couldn’t wait.
The whole concept of having one’s own personal outdoor Pizza Oven was immediately alien to me as a small town Italian girl, born and raised in Binghamton,NY. Loretta and Attilio, my parents, (read more about them on the About Page on my website, Linda’s Italian Table < click here) made their own dough simply, added fresh tomatoes and homemade sausage or pepperoni, and just popped it into the oven. (Find out more about making pizza with Loretta and Attilio – Arugula Pizza < click here ) I thought I had “graduated” when I began using a pizza stone! Who knew?
Barbara and Steve, a couple of real Italian food lovers, have taken Pizza Making to an entirely new level. Barbara had the pizza oven idea tucked away in her mind since the 1970’s when she became serious about learning to cook. The whole idea began when they were thinking of making some adjustments to their home. Their children were grown and sprung from the nest, and Barbara and Steve thought, “What next?” So, their attention turned to something they love to do – cooking and entertaining. A few years before, the couple had completely revamped their kitchen, a project featured in an Atlanta magazine. They incorporated a very sleek and updated look to serve as the backdrop to a functional environment where Barbara could practice what she learned as apprentice in some of the top restaurant kitchens in Atlanta.
See the exquisite Lacanche “Cluny” stove where she does her creating indoors. I have to confess, the old “green eyed monster” emerged when I first gazed upon that lovely piece. Read more about these incredible French ranges at Lacanche Coet d’Or < click here.
With the renovation behind them, what then could they possibly add to their already state of the art cooking facilities? They knew just what was missing – an outdoor wood burning Pizza Oven that was authentic and efficient. The authenticity factor was important to them, and they spent a good amount of time researching and designing the oven that would be a permanent and very important element in their home that was true to the way they enjoyed entertaining their family and friends.
In Steve’s research, he found Forno Bravo < click here – and purchased the actual prefabricated oven from them online. He then enlisted a mason to house and build the stucco and brick facade. At the same time, the mason built an attached fireplace according to their design similar in style to the oven so that they could extend their seasonal outdoor use of their deck/patio. This fireplace incorporated the same stone used in other exterior parts of the home. An area was efficiently designated to store logs in the back of the structure. The process took an amazingly short 2 ½ weeks! It was then, that Steve could begin the process of “curing” the oven with small fires before actually progressing to making pizzas.
Steve has the process down to a “science”. When we arrived, Steve began the quite deliberate task of starting the fire – a process that takes about an hour. He explained that his preferred method is from “top to bottom”. Instead of putting the kindling on the bottom and wood over it as is common in fire building, he places the wood on the bottom and kindling on the top.
The heavy insulation provides the environment in which an intense fire will develop within about an hour to achieve the desired 900 degrees needed to cook a perfect pizza in 2 minutes!
Steve monitors the temperature with an infra red thermometer while he waits for the interior of the oven to turn”white hot”. One can even bake bread in this oven by placing a door-like device in front of the opening to keep ALL of the heat inside.
During our demonstration, when the fire was deemed ready, Steve’s duties turned from fire starter to pizza tender and server extraordinaire!
Barbara who creates behind the scenes while Steve “mans” the oven, soon appeared with her infamous dough and toppings.
While we were there, she made it all appear easy!
She asked everyone to create a pizza suited to their taste and delight. The guests even added some of Barbara’s beautiful and mouth watering antipasti to their pizzas as well as several types of cheeses including ricotta with garlic. Troppo Bella !
Absolutely nothing was missed when it came to inventive ways to dress these pizzas thanks to Barbara’s innovative preparation. In addition, it was incredible fun for her guests.
The finished products produced crusts that were light and crispy. The toppings of intensely flavorful meats, cheeses, and vegetables provided a “kid in a candy store” experience for everyone.
When it comes to pizza, these folks know how to do it! Thank you, Barbara and Steve!!
Parla Come Mangi!
Also: See the NEW JANUARY RECIPE OF THE MONTH on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE!
Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography