Made from Scratch - Pizza with Heart
Building a house ‘from scratch’ with your spouse is not always smooth sailing. There were many differences of opinion, and heated discussions around our individual priorities (and of course the budget!) While we were in the planning stages, and I was busy thinking about important things like flooring, bathroom fixtures and window design, little did I know Phil was thinking about recycled blue jean soundproofing and…....a pizza oven?
We had planned a three sided stone wall-divider between the kitchen and family room with a see-through fireplace. I can remember some discussion about a pizza oven, but nothing “concrete,” after all what did we know about making pizzas, and isn’t that a little over-the-top?
(I actually didn’t know this, but while we lived in Northern California, Phil had been captivated by the beautiful kitchen at my friend Suzanne’s house. He loved her custom fireplace - basically a fireplace at eye level - he thought it created such a warm and cozy focal point - but his only issue was you couldn’t cook in it.)
(You can see why I was horrified to come back and find this in my new kitchen.)
One weekend I snuck away to visit my parents in NY. It was during the time the stone masons were here. I came back to find the TITANIC had surfaced, and was in my new kitchen! I almost killed Phil- the huge cinder block monstrosity took up our whole eating area! And it was too late. It was literally set in stone. The greatest lesson I learned during the process: mistakes/rogue-ideas happen and trust they happen for a reason. And finding contractors who can think outside the box with you to help fix them (and share a glass of wine with) doesn't hurt!
Phil found a 36-inch diameter kit at a company called Superior Clay. The kit was simple and not too expensive, but the real work was in the masonry. It needed to be aesthetically pleasing - which would be no small feat. The masonry structure went from floor to ceiling with a “Lord Rumford" style fireplace on the family room side and a pizza oven on the kitchen side at eye level.
(A Rumford fireplace is a tall and shallow fire pit which allows for great heat distribution and classic in old New England homes.)
We had salvaged all of the beautiful pieces of West Falmouth pink granite steps out of the old cottage’s bulkhead and entryways. We decided to incorporate them into the fireplaces as "lintels." The excavators had piled stones they dug during our site work with the old granite. Looking at the pile of salvaged stone outside, I noticed the colors and texture matched the original foundation of the house. We decided it would lend a rustic inside/outside feel, so in 'scrappy-style' the kids and I grabbed our gloves and started carrying the rocks into the family room and laid them out.
(Can you find the heart-shaped stone?)
My son, Gianni, found a small heart-shaped rock in the pile and decided he wanted to put it on the pizza oven side since he loved pizza. (At this point I started to think this pizza oven wasn’t so bad.)
Next challenge - I needed mantels. I ran over to our local wood guy at Cataumet Sawmill. I told Tom I needed some beautiful old beams for mantels and he told me to come back in a couple of days, he had just the thing. Tom had supplied aged white oak for the restoration of the SS Constitution in Boston, and the last three leftover pieces were coming back to him. I took all three and used them as our mantels. The third sits on the old beach rock fireplace in the library.
We have practiced and perfected the classic Neapolitan pizza technique, and have had a lot of fun working out the kinks on our friends. The pizza oven has become the social center of the kitchen, and the source of some great family gatherings. We use it all year round.
We even had “pizza wars” with Phil’s long time friend from Philly. He had just come back from Italy and learned the classic pizza making technique. He operates a pizza shack in Half Moon Bay, CA (Panaficio, if you are local stop over and see him!) Mike is extremely technical about pizza and they were both excited to do battle in the kitchen.
(Mike's toppings were aggressive!)
The competition was set up "baseball style." The visiting team from Cali was up first and it ran inning by inning. First round were compulsory pies, the classic Margherita;
sauce, mozzarella, and basil. As the innings wore on, the rules got confused, but the best pie of the event was a Pancetta, Mascarpone and Caramelized Onion from the visiting team (though there was as much wine as pizza, and honestly no one really remembers who won.)
(Phil and Mike heating the oven to 700 degrees!)
Pizza Night around here is an all-night affair, we usually serve "community pies" so everyone can taste the interesting creations.
(I make sure to have lots of stuff to pick on as we prepare the oven and the dough, then we all relax, pour a glass of wine and let go.)
We use the oven for cooking as well as making pizza, and sometimes we just fire it up for ambiance. Whatever we choose to make, it always comes out tasting like you’ve never experienced it before. The oven is great during football games especially when the Eagles are playing - it calms Phil’s nerves! When Nathalie and Gianni are home from college, making pizza is a fantastic way to keep the kids and their friends right here at home. I've learned to live with (and even love) the pizza oven. Food is family, and having such an interactive focal point in the kitchen makes it warm, inviting and really fun.
(Photo Courtesy of Matthew Mead.)
There are many options for pizza ovens - professional indoor/outdoor, countertop options, or simple pizza stones for your oven or BBQ. The important thing is to use fresh ingredients, follow the rules for making the dough, and make it fun.
We used the Forno Bravo pizza guide which has worked well for us. I highly recommend downloading the guide to understand the process, here is the link to get you started: https://www.fornobravo.com/wood-fired-cooking/
And I've listed all the important items essential for making great pizza on my Amazon page to find items we use, and suggestions for other pizza oven/pizza stone options https://www.amazon.com/shop/oldsilvershed
On our property we have an old outdoor fireplace in need of restoration. I often think wouldn't it be a great outdoor pizza oven?
But...I will build my shed first!
Thank you for stopping by today, I would love to hear your questions and comments below!