The Beauty of Fortina’s Wood-Fired Pizza Ovens
From artichokes to eggs, wood-fired recipes are a hot trend
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Chef Christian Petroni has the ultimate chef appliance, which is, counter-intuitively, about as primitive as you can get. Except for a snazzy ventilation system (and perhaps some high-tech insulation), the dual, wood-fired pizza ovens that Petroni uses at Fortina are not substantially different from the domed brick ovens of ancient Rome. Go ahead and Google “ovens + Pompeii” and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Of course, Petroni’s ovens cost a few more denarii than those ancient Pompeiian beehives. His twin, Italian-made Marra Forni ovens cost a cool $20K each. They’re built for volume: At Fortina, Petroni is cranking through up to five cords of kiln-dried maple, hickory, and oak per week. When the restaurant is busy, he’s firing as many as eight pies at once in a single oven (which is heated to about 700°F—at which the pizzas take between 60 and 70 seconds to cook). Fortina’s second oven, which Petroni maintains at a lower temperature, is devoted to much of the rest of Fortina’s menu, which includes wood-fired vegetables, fish, poultry, and steak.
Wood-burning ovens—once the province of elite restaurants, pizzerias, and bakeries—are cropping up with increasing frequencyin home kitchens and backyards. Italian manufacturers like Mugnaini ship pre-made oven inserts that can be installed either indoors or outdoors. (In fact, you may have seen actor Stanley Tucci in the New York Times posing with his own Italian wood-burning oven in his Northern Westchester backyard.) Mugnainini ovens start at about $2,500, though Forno Bravo ovens (from Northern California) might cost a little less. Most of these wood-burning ovens can be finished on site to match any décor.
Wood-burning ovens are inextricably linked to the idea of pizza—and, it is true, no other tool makes a better pie. But wood also imparts a delicious, subtly smoky flavor to anything cooked in its blaze. To show off his ovens’ versatility, we asked Petroni to share a few of his favorite, wood-fired recipes. This is what happens when a chef gets fired up...