History of the Pizza Oven

There are not too many people who don’t love pizza. Merriam-Webster defines pizza as “a flat round bread usually with tomato sauce and cheese, sometimes with meats and vegetables.” Now a day’s the Italian specialty take on many different forms. You can buy it in the grocery store freezer or at a restaurant from Chicago-style deep-dish to a paper thin crust. In the United States, we love our pizza so much that the total pizza revenue was over $32 billion in 2015!
We would not have the pizza industry we have today without the wood-fired pizza oven. Though the pizza oven has evolved, nothing has improved on the basic design of the original pizza oven.

History of the wood-fired pizza oven:

The wood-fired oven can be loosely described as a dome shaped oven made of brick or stone which uses wood burning heat from the roof. The origin of the pizza oven can be traced almost to the beginning of civilization. There is a record of the Greeks settling in the Eastern Mediterranean near Pompeii in the eight century. The city of Pompeii developed into an incredible culture, not much different than how we live today. They had shops, beautiful homes, restaurants, and yes pizza ovens!

Mount Vesuvius, one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, had its most famous eruption in 79AD. The destruction from the volcanic ash and lava quickly killed the 2,000 residents of Pompeii and buried the town in molten rock. Pompeii was unearthed nearly 2,000 years later in 1748 by archeologists. The entire city was amazingly intact and even more incredible; the pizza ovens were ready for use! They also found pizzerias set up much like they are today, complete with salad bar.

As the Pompeii civilization lay buried for millenniums, the pizza oven’s predecessor was in operation thousands of years ago in Europe. The earth oven was simply a pit in the ground heated with wood and fire. During Medieval times the earth oven was owned by a wealthy person, and community members would come together to bake bread and cook stew and other food for a fee. It was a gathering place for neighbors.

The Feudal System during the Middle Ages was less oppressive for Italy, and many Italian families owned an upgraded version of the earth oven constructed as a dome out of brick or native stone. The perfection of this oven was the foundation of the pizza industry.

How Pizza ovens have evolved:

The wood-fired pizza oven eventually evolved into the French or Scottish oven, which was also known as the “white oven,” This oven had a lower barrel vault and a separate firing chamber to accommodate more baking and cooking. As the oven transformed into what we know as the modern oven during Victorian times, the wood-fired pizza oven all but disappeared.

The dome shaped oven was re-introduced in Italy in the early 1900s. It didn’t really have a true resurgence though until the 1970s. The aftermath of WWII found Italy rebuilding western-style. This western rehabilitation meant, of course, an influx of American-style metal ovens.

The rebirth of the wood-fired oven continued in the 1990s with the introduction of modern retraction and insulation. These advancements made the cooking method more accessible for the home chef and also reduced cooking times for other dishes.

Napoli Italy is celebrating their artistry for pizza more than ever, and it is as much a part of their culture as mozzarella, olive oil, and Chianti. What is popular in Europe usually makes its way to the States. With more U.S. citizens making the trip across the pond, the demand for restaurants featuring the dome-shaped ovens is growing in the U.S. and worldwide.

If a journey to Italy and eating pizza amongst the lemon trees is not in your budget or you, don’t like to frequent restaurants you can make delicious wood-fired pizza at home. The advanced technology allows the homeowner to make their own delicious recipes in wood-fired ovens.

There are many different choices in the way of pizza ovens for your home, but there are two main types, the modular and the assembled. The modular is ideal for those who want a permanent and custom oven. It may be an indoor or outdoor installation and be designed to work with or complement a traditional kitchen. With the modular oven, you have control of overseeing the planning and installation.

The preassembled ovens are ready to go once installed. They require little planning from the consumer and they are portable if the owner moves or makes other changes. Though not custom, there are many design choices. There are also cooking tools and cookware such as baking stones made to use with the wood-fired oven.

Besides making delicious pizza, there are many Italian specialties and culinary temptations from around the globe you can create with your own wood-fired pizza oven. Take a bite out of history and see why the traditional pizza oven has made a comeback even after thousands of years.


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