The theatre of pizza-making has proven to be a big draw for the plethora of Italian restaurants across the country. And while there have been some recent casual dining chain casualties in the Italian cuisine sector, it makes it ever more important for the remaining sites to differentiate their offerings.
One of the ways they can do this is to incorporate pizza ovens into the front of house area, an endeavour which kitchen design houses play a vital part in. Therefore the ovens also need to be easy for these distributors to install. So Catering Insight took the temperature of UK pizza oven suppliers and manufacturers to see how closely they are considering the theatre kitchen trend.
Jestic Foodservice Equipment is one major name in this arena, supplying Wood Stone, Sveba Dahlen and now Alfa Pro pizza ovens to the market.
National sales manager Richard Norman commented: ““Front of house food preparation facilities and open plan kitchens are now commonplace across the industry, but particularly in Italian restaurants, chains and groups. Part of this is down to the way pizza ovens are able to lend themselves to enhancing the theatre of the cooking process, engaging customers in the wider dining experience.
“Optimised for front of house or open plan kitchens, the wood and gas fired ovens from Wood Stone not only produce wonderful pizzas, with an authentic stone fired taste, but also look great and bring the chef’s own flair to the customer.
“The deck oven range from Sveba Dahlen can also be positioned in full view of the customer, as they are still able to demonstrate the passion of the operator and the speed of the cooking process to the dining room.
“While the newest brand in our portfolio, Alfa Pro, is powered by gas, wood or dual fuel, and the ovens are equally suited for a traditional kitchen setup, as they are for positioning front of house.”
In terms of ease of installation he advised: “Working with our team of factory trained engineers, dealers and distributors can make an informed decision on the best oven for a particular project, while also ensuring that all the utilities and connections are in place prior to installation. This not only includes gas and electric connectivity, depending on the appliance specified, but also helps to ensure the correct extraction and ventilation system is installed prior to use.
“Depending on the particular appliances purchased, depends on whether or not the oven can be delivered in kit form. Smaller appliances, such as those in the Alfa Pro range allow for straightforward installation, even to sites with limited access. Larger ovens, such as those in the Wood Stone range can prove to be more of a challenge. That said, Wood Stone has developed various different methods of moving ovens into kitchens, including a bespoke frame that allows the unit to be tilted onto its side to fit through a standard double door.”
Over at Oldham-based Linda Lewis Kitchens, its Cuppone Giotto pizza oven has also been designed for ease of installation, and is supplied as a complete unit with a complimentary stand and hood.
Commercial director Jenna Lewis reported: “The Cuppone Giotto arrives on site in three pieces and can be assembled ready for installation within 1 hour.
“The oven is folded in half on castors which allows it to be wheeled through any standard door opening. It has an integrated winch system, which pops the Giotto up into all its glory within seconds. Labelled cladding panels are almost ‘paint by numbers’ for any installing engineer. The Giotto can be installed from start to finish within 2 hours.”
Front of house is front and centre of the design too. “Stylish in its design and featuring a revolving base for easy unloading and loading, the world’s first ever electric oven with a revolving base is eye catching to say the least,” said Lewis. “When creating the Giotto, design was something which was carefully considered by Cuppone. The standard Giotto comes in a stunning space-aged design however, the Giotto can also be tiled to suit the décor of any restaurant, giving a more authentic ‘Italian’ finish.”
The revolving base has a range of speeds for the operator to control, for ease of loading, while the oven’s stand has been designed with underneath storage, making it suitable for front of house operations.
The Giotto can cook pizzas in 2-5 minutes dependant on toppings and features Cuppone’s heat regeneration system, meaning that the oven should retain its temperature when its panoramic glass door is repeatedly opened during busy service. The Giotto can also be programmed to turn itself on and heat up so that it is ready for the start of service.
Elsewhere, the Sirman pizza ovens that Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM) supplies are said to be stylish and are now available with a ventilation hood so that they can easily be integrated front of house, according to commercial director Mark Hogan.
“Because all our pizza ovens are electric, they do not require a special extraction system. In addition, the Vesuvio 2C 105 x 105 is very good value,” he said.
This double deck model is reportedly FEM’s best seller, with Hogan citing ease of installation and its quick cooking times as key reasons for this. “Sirman pizza ovens are compact units so access is not usually an issue,” he added.
Advising dealers that the best pizza equipment available is designed and made in Italy, like the Sirman brand, Hogan detailed: “The Sirman pizza ovens have glass doors and interior lighting, which not only look good but also enable chefs to quickly see how the pizzas are cooking without opening the doors and losing heat.
“Electric pizza ovens have the benefits of safety and convenience. They are also not affected by the latest HSE guidance and do not require a dedicated extraction system. They can work under standard extraction canopies.”
For Middleby Group company, Beech Ovens, pizza oven design is carefully examined. “Our engineering team is trained to consider every detail shared by our clients to make sure any kind of usage requirement at their kitchen is well incorporated with our product designs,” said European brand manager Richard Douaihy. “Beech Ovens can build around beams and in different shapes, making it easier to benefit from every space available.”
Aesthetics are also a focus during the ovens’ research and development phase. “If a project is custom, every little detail shared by our client is taken into consideration. Our motto is ‘if you can conceptualise it, we can build it’,” revealed Douaihy.
All Beech Hearth Ovens are manufactured in three pieces: the dome, the deck, and the legs. Douaihy detailed: “Our ovens are shipped to site with a detailed manual for how pieces are put together, electrical and gas system requirements, and curing procedures. Also, we provide necessary material for our customers to ensure the cladding or hearth extension is well set in place and doesn’t affect the oven’s performance and ensures clean combustion.
“All three parts can be shipped separately if needed and can be assembled on site using the right (heavy duty) equipment to ensure the assembly is safe.”
Elsewhere, UK manufacturer Lincat’s pizza ovens are equipped with a viewing window and internal illumination which could make them suitable for theatre-style cooking.
According to marketing manager Helen Applewhite: “An external temperature gauge and 20-minute audible timer make it easy to monitor the cooking process in a busy front of house setting. And their double-glazed door construction helps to keep the heat in the oven and maintain a comfortable working environment.
“Additionally, we aim to meet any scale of front of house requirement by offering an extensive range of pizza ovens. These extend from the counter top LPO model from our Lynx 400 range, which has the capacity to cook either 2 x 9”, 4 x 7” or 1 x 14” pizzas, to the premium twin-deck PO630-2 which can accommodate 12 x 12” pizzas.”
She added: “All Lincat equipment is designed to be aesthetically pleasing, in order that it can be used either front of house or a theatre-style kitchen. Our pizza ovens follow a simple, classic design, and are manufactured from high quality stainless steel which is easy to clean and maintains its sheen.”
Reporting that the brand’s pizza ovens should be easy to install, either on the counter top or an optional floor stand, Applewhite detailed for technicians: “The ovens arrive fully assembled and can be simply lifted into place. Nevertheless, we still try to make things as easy as possible, for example power cords can be connected to our pizza ovens without removing metal panels. They are all designed to fit through a standard doorway, so there is no need to assemble on site.”
Fellow manufacturer Pantheon says that its pizza ovens are easy to install, with no distributor training required. As the units are not overly large, they are delivered fully assembled.
Sales director David Barton commented: “Pantheon’s pizza ovens are ideal for front of house usage. Because they’re designed to look good as well as function effectively, Pantheon’s solidly built, stainless steel pizza ovens can be effectively used in any situation where they’re in full view of customers.”
Temperatures of up to 500°C can be selected while the toughened glass viewing windows allow the pizzas to be monitored closely without needing to open the door. While refractory brick bases are designed to ensure heat distribution, an internal light to each deck should help the operator maintain control over the pizza whilst also appealing to customers.
The pizza ovens should be able to be safely installed close to other equipment, provided there is sufficient ventilation space around them. The clearances required are 100mm to either side and overhead and 200mm at the back. Plus they are designed to be well insulated to retain heat while the outer walls shouldn’t get too hot.
Set at lower temperatures, Pantheon’s pizza ovens can be used for pies, jacket potatoes and other baked dishes. “This means that they can be fully utilised to fulfil a variety of menu items, many of which can be served straight from the oven, so that front of house siting is highly convenient,” said Barton.
The ovens can be supplied ready for either 32A single phase or three phase electricity. The pizza ovens must be placed on solid, even, safe and stable surfaces that tolerate the weight of the unit. If this option isn’t available, Pantheon can supply an optional pizza oven stand.
The dimensions of the smaller, four pizza capacity model, the PO4, is 910mm w x 820mm d x 430mm h while the larger eight pizza model, the PO4+4, is 910mm w x 820mm d x 750mm h.
Lastly, Euro Catering’s sales director Justin Towns believes that: “Pizza ovens should be situated in a position where the greatest number of diners can watch what’s going on, and see the fire or living flame, if it is a wood-fired or gas-style oven. However, it also pays to have an oven that naturally catches and pleases the eye whilst providing the culinary entertainment.
“For this reason, Euro Catering’s pizza oven suppliers have devised various options for caterers. Italforni has gone down the route of incredible aesthetics with its Italforni ‘Bull’ oven, created to resemble a bull’s head and a design award-winner at the Gulfood exhibition. Morrello Forni, on the other hand, has produced a pizza oven with a revolving stone turntable that creates added interest. The company also has a ‘Volcano’ design option with a tapered dome, which hides the flue from view.”
In fact the Italforni ‘Bull’ design was created by artist Raffaele Gerardi. “This shows how important aesthetics are to discerning establishments,” said Towns. “Little wonder then that Saatchi’s London headquarters’ pub, The Pregnant Man, has this wow factor oven. It is the world’s first oven made with tempered stained glass and can be supplied in any RAL colour or combination of colours within a bespoke design.”
The Morello Forni ovens look at aesthetics in a different way, offering painted metal and stainless-steel finishes, as well as Cupola and Volcano ovens to which coloured, microporous plaster and natural stone mosaic tiles can be applied. Morrello Forni’s mosaic finishes utilise wide, natural stones, in different colours and colour-combination choices, enabling the ovens to deliver the aesthetics a restaurant desires.
The latter brand’s electric dome ovens (FRV100 and FRV125) have been developed to be delivered in one piece, transported on a pallet-truck and wheeled into position, with the access door only having to be a few centimetres wider than the width of the dome. Towns added: “Once there, they only need a power supply, so can literally be plugged in straight away. This feature comes by virtue of them being self-venting ovens. It makes the life of the distributor very simple.
“With Italforni Bull ovens, each deck is modular and can be transported as an individual piece, as can the base and canopy. Again, this makes life very simple.”