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D.C.'s Legit Pizza Ovens, By the Numbers

Pizzeria Orso's oven
Pizzeria Orso's oven
Photo: Facebook

Legit pizzas require legit pizza ovens. More than a spectacle for diners, using the traditional pizza oven gives the pie the flavor of a true Italian pizzeria. And it seems like every pizzeria in town has its own, giant oven. For some restaurants, the pizza oven is a sidekick; for others, especially dedicated pizzerias, it's the star.

But why does pizza taste better coming out of a traditional oven? One word: wood. To get the right temperature and flavor, the wood is an important piece of the pizza oven pie. Nothing sappy or laminated should be thrown into the fire. Stick with wood that's considered hard, such as oak or maple. A good rule of thumb is: The harder the wood, the higher the heat. And for cooks searching for more flavor in their pizza, wood from fruit trees is a solid choice. Many pizzerias seem to prefer apple.

A basic commercial pizza oven can start at $6,000 and run well north of $10,000 or more. And that's for pizza ovens that are ready to roll. A pizza oven at home is much more affordable since cooks don't need to dish out 30 or more pizzas in an hour. An oven for the home can start around $1,250.

Brookland's Menomale was founded by Naples native Ettore Rusciano, and he makes his pizza the Neapolitan way using a traditional pizza oven. This restaurant's pizza oven weighs about two tons, and this beast of a kitchen tool cooks the pizzas at 900 degrees. That's a pretty important temperature because that's around the temperature needed for traditional Neopolitan-style pizza. Rusciano's pizza is so legit, he has a Pizzaiolo certificate from the Associazione Versace Pizza Napoletana (True Neapolitan Pizza Association). But Menomale's Rusciano isn't the only certificate-carrying Neapolitan pizzeria in town. Georgetown's Il Canale can also boast about its certification from the true Neapolitan pizza authorities, among others.

Pizzeria Orso in Falls Church, also uses a huge pizza oven. Its made from volcanic brick, and when it's fired up, the thermostat is around 800 degrees. At that temperature, pizzas can cook in a minute and a half or so.

It's not just mom-and-pop pizzerias that are cooking pizza in the real deal. At Matchbox, its pizza ovens hit temperatures of 800 degrees or more. But Pizzeria Paradiso takes the more low-and-slow route (ok, relatively speaking) by cooking pizzas in its oven at 650 degrees.

While the traditional pizza ovens can weigh thousands of pounds, Red Zebra's team has a pizza oven that travels with them wherever they need to go. That's because the pizza oven is on wheels, traveling to such local spots as the Dupont Farmers Market.

D.C. even has an entire club dedicated to pizza oven enthusiasts. The DC Elite Pizza club is billed as a "club for wood-fired pizza enthusiasts in the National Capitol area." They meet a few times a year to dish over wood-fired pizza, with Dave Konstantin, a pizza oven maunfacturer with Forno Bravo DC, overseeing the festivities.
· Il Canale on the Adventures of Getting Pizza Certified [-EDC-]

Pizzeria Orso

400 South Maple Avenue, , VA 22046 (703) 226-3460 Visit Website