What Is Wood Fired Pizza: The Story of Our Oven
Have you ever ordered from a pizzeria and gotten a pizza with bubbles and charred crust? Why is that? Is it burnt or is that the style?
Well the answers to these questions are quite simple. These types of pizzas are cooked on a wood-fired pizza oven. This style of pizza was popularized in Italy and produces an intentional smokey flavor and crunchy charred crust.
At Pizzeria La Rosa, we know this style well. Wood fire is how we make our signature Neapolitan inspired pies. Our restaurant is located in New Rochelle, within lovely Westchester County New York.
In the historic building we inhabit, we had to rebuild a 100 year old baking oven into a wood fire brick oven. Though a year long effort, we refurbished the existing brick oven to trap the wood smoke and achieve the the Napoli meets New York pizza recipe we're known for.
What is a Wood Fired Pizza Oven
Also, sometimes called a brick oven, wood fired ovens are where pizza's are cooked with wood as a the primary heating source. The wood fire ultimately heats up the bricks within the oven, which cooks the pizza underneath it.
In terms of wood, wood fire ovens use dried hardwood such as maple, oak, hickory and walnut to produce the best flame and smoke. These types of wood burn the cleanest smoke and produce the best flavors.
Once fully heated, wood fired pizzas reach temperatures ranging from 750° to 850° Farenheit. This scorching heat allows a pie to be cooked in a blazing fast 2 to 3 minutes. The tremendous heat is also why there is charring on the crust.
Just so you know - there are other types of pizza ovens beyond wood fired. This includes gas, electric, oil and even coal powered ovens. Each type of oven produces its own unique flavors, textures, as well as prepares the pizza at different cook times.
Neapolitan Style Pizza
Wood fired is the preferred way of producing Neapolitan style pizza. This style originates from Naples Italy.
The most famous Neapolitan pie is the Margherita. The Margherita pie is a simple but classic mix of San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, salt and extra-virgin olive oil.
Famous Wood Fired Pizzerias
Nowadays there are a number of popular pizzerias using wood fired in the United States. Almost all of them create Neapolitan pies or Neapolitan inspired pies. This list includes the following restaurants:
And many more...Check them out if you ever have the chance.
The Story of La Rosa's Oven
The Petersen oven in our kitchen dates back to the 1920’s when our location was originally a bakery. Interestingly, our side room was a loading dock where they’d load the ingredients and ship out the baked goods produced by the oven. The historical charm of this Westchester restaurant was not lost on us. Despite being vacant for 3 years, we loved the soda fountain bar and classic oven. This closed the deal on us signing a lease in 2016.
When we signed the lease, the restaurant was fairly beaten up. The oven hadn’t been used in 3 years and ran on oil. At one point it appeared the oven ran on coal, but that likely was last done in the 1960’s. The Petersen Oven company itself went out of business in 1958 so this was a truly a rare oven.
Since we always had a vision of making Frank’s Neapolitan meets New York style pizzas, converting the oven to wood fire was the first order of business. To convert to wood fire, we sought out an oven specialist to help make sure the bricks enclosure would handle the smoke. This also required us to update the ventilation ducks and chimney.
It took over eight months and several contractors to finish this work, but once we were done we had a functional wood fire brick oven. We opened a few months later in September of 2017. The rest is now pizza making history.
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