Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I grew up in southern Connecticut. In the late 80's, my older brother lived in New Haven on Wooster street. You are probably wondering, "Why would anyone care where your brother lived in the late 80's?" This Wooster Street apartment was in between Sally's APizza and Frank Pepe's - two very well known places in the pizza world. My father preferred Sally's. I preferred Pepe's. There were many night I'd call in a pizza order from my parents house, drive the 20 miles to New Haven, hang out with my brother for a little while, and then walk up the block to get a white clam with bacon pizza. It is fantastic pizza. Their pizza is good with anything on it, but the white clam and bacon pie will blow your mind.

Closer to home, was a restaurant called The Brick Oven. This was just a great restaurant. Everything was good and it was priced right. Someone from my family was here weekly. We told my parent's that we were having another child here. (Side story: We printed up a fake specials sheet with hints that they were getting another grandchild and the owners placed it in the menus given to my parents.) They had a spicy chicken Scarpiello that makes me drool thinking about it.  Their pizza was also excellent (they used a wood oven compared to Pepe's coal). I sadly use "was" because the restaurant has been sold and is under new management. The quality of food there is a mere shadow of it's former past.

I have been living in the Capital Region since 1996. So far, I haven't found pizza that I really like here. There have certainly been pizzas I have enjoyed, but nothing as good as those pizzas in Connecticut. There are a few places I still have to try after reading about them in the 2009 AOA Tournament of Pizza. Specifically Marissa's and Marino's.

Sadly, I don't think the pizza places that I love would be profitable in this area. None had a 12 or 24 cut pizza. These were roundish pieces of dough cooked on a hearth. And it turns out, that everything I love in a pizza gets complained about up here - seriously wtf?!?

So way back in December, I started reading. The first book was  Build Your Own Earth Oven. I read the 3rd edition cover to cover. I had flipped through the 2nd edition before. This time, I had purpose. I want to build a wood fired oven.

The next book was The Bread Builder's. One of the authors is the late Alan Scott who built a lot of ovens. This was a good book too and describes building a traditional brick oven. (Both of these books, by the way are available through our local public library system.)

There are also a ton of websites devoted to wood fired ovens. You can buy various plans, kits, have people build them for fact there is one mason routinely posting on Albany's Craigslist.

I think I would like cooking in the brick oven better. It seems more suited to pizza as well as other things like breads and roasts or anything you would put in an oven. The earthen oven seems more suited to baking and a little harder to work for pizza. But don't get me wrong, you certainly can do pizza in an earthen oven. The main draw to me toward an earthen oven, besides the lower cost, is the oven's lack of permanence. A hose,  a shovel, and a wheel barrow could take one down in no time. I'll probably live in this house for a few more years, but I doubt I'll be living her in 10. (There is one full bath in this house, in 10 years I'll have 16 and 14 year old girls, we're moving.) On the other hand, a brick oven would be a huge selling point to the right person.

Then last night I found this awesome piece of ingenuity.

and this

I'm on the Pizza Hacker's mailing list now, but I don't think he has anything to sell yet. Maybe he never will. I would think Weber would be interested. This would be perfect for me. Wood fired pizza without a summer of construction. And then I thought, I could build this myself! And then I found this: cue sad Price is Right music.

But, the main reason for my current pizza excitement is happening tomorrow. The annoying crab apple tree that tortuously plops apples down onto the deck at random intervals with a thump, fills the gutters with muck and hangs over part of the house becomes firewood tomorrow. More specifically, wood for future BBQ. The tree is also in the spot that would home to any future oven project.


  1. Did your parents figure it out with the specials, or did you have to end up telling them? It sounds like such a neat way to tell them!

    I think a woodfired oven would be a great sell for potential home buyers. People love stuff they could use, even if they might not use it, like, ever. But they have the option!

    Make it. I'd love to try one of these New Haven types of pizza.

  2. It took a second, but they got it. We still have the menu.

    So far, the wife is on board with the oven. She knew I was nuts when she married me. This weekend, I was showing her pictures I've found online. I also joined the wood fired oven group on Yahoo. Everything is online...