Meet the massive ovens behind some favorite pizzas.
In opening his second iteration of Area Four—A4 Pizza in Somerville—chef Jeff Pond made the move from a mechanized wood-gas hybrid oven to a decidedly simpler one, a wood-fired oven from Maine Wood Heat. “They’re just craftsmen…they’re intellectual about how they approach it,” Pond says of the father-son team that made it. The egg-shaped design, small mouth and high-arched dome keep the 700-degree temp consistent as it cooks five pizzas at a go for about three-and-a-half minutes. The goods didn’t come cheap—$64,000 for the oven and ventilation—but Pond says the expense was worth it. “What you come to learn with ovens,” he says, is that “the ones that are built by hand, they have sort of a soul to them.”
445 Somerville Ave., Somerville (617-764-4190) areafour.com
Made using sand from Mount Vesuvius, the Marra Forni brick oven at Quattro churns out upward of 400 pizzas every day. “It’s the real Neapolitan pizza that you would eat in downtown Naples,” owner Frank DePasquale says. The North End restaurant’s certified Neapolitan oven cooks three pies at a time for 1 minute and 20 seconds, and the high 700- to 900-degree temperature range works wonders on the raw sauce. DePasquale explains, “When the sauce mixes with the fior de latte, which is a form of mozzarella…it becomes the perfect pizza.”
264 Hanover St., Boston (617-720-0444) quattro-boston.com
Pizza isn’t the only dish to come out of the EarthStone wood-fired oven at Lincoln Tavern. When he’s not filling it with four pies at a time, chef Nicholas Dixon cooks up orders of chicken wings, and he’s also been known to use the oven’s high temperature for meat. (The stone hits 800 degrees, while the dome can get up to 1,200.) “I can get a beautiful, hard sear on a steak, and I feel like it’s a thousand times better than a grilled steak,” he says. Versatility is almost to be expected from this oven, whose design originated 50 years ago for bread baking and makes for what Dixon calls a “puffy, artisanal-style pizza.”
425 West Broadway, Boston (617-765-8636) lincolnsouthboston.com
A day for the EarthStone coal-fired pizza oven at Max and Leo’s Artisan Pizza starts before the sun comes up, usually at around 6 am, when a kitchen staffer begins the four-hour process of getting the temperature to 850 degrees. Once the coals are hot, the 8,000-pounder can cook four pies at a time, which must be rotated every 15 seconds for the perfect char. The process is labor-intensive and the personality finicky, but co-owner Max Candidus says, “The advantages are easy—coal cooks with less moisture than any other fuel source.” That means pies that are crispy outside and tender inside, but the oven also turns out other menu offerings, like Candidus’ favorite: coal-fired nachos that can be capped with any of the restaurant’s 40 pizza toppings.
325 Washington St., Newton (617-244-7200) maxandleos.com