If you happen to follow Bridgeport's Pleasant House Bakery, masterful makers of English-style pies, and its co-owner Art Jackson on Twitter, you might have seen cryptic references to pizza last weekend, or even a photo of one of the pizzas— which, given the cafe's theme, took a decidedly English bent with toppings like skirt steak, stilton, caramelized onions and rocket (arugula), or strawberries and foraged juneberries. Then just as suddenly the pizzas were said to be no more. So we contacted Art to get the story. Turns out the pizza oven came on wheels, and was brought for a special event by someone who's turned up on our pages before, chef Patrick Barclay. It went away after the weekend, but it's got Art thinking about bringing it back, installing a permanent one, and how to use it in all kinds of interesting ways. Here's what he told us about it.
Art emailed us:
We launched the Royal pizzas over the weekend and hope to bring them back periodically throughout the summer and fall. I'm very passionate about pizza, am trained in the VPN-style (Verace Pizza Napoletana) of pizza making and thought of merging my pie passions.
I met David Hammond's friend Patrick and we brought his portable wood-fired oven over for the weekend to give it a go. Patrick brought some fresh-picked strawberries down from Wisconsin and I put them on a pizza with fresh mozzarella, black pepper, foraged juneberry and sour cherry jam and dried mint! It was a lot of fun (Patrick may have mixed reviews as it was hotter than HELL).
It looks like the wood-fired oven will be a mostly permanent fixture here at PHB around mid-summer. We'll most likely bring Patrick's oven back soon but I've been researching one of my own as well. It would integrate well with some of the other things we do like Sunday Carvery.
As far as the pizzas go, they will be a periodic special that we plan on pairing with movies on the patio. The movies might be as mashed-up as the Brittalian pizzas, like The Italian Job for example-- Italy and MINI Coopers. We like to make serious food but have fun doing it. Some future Royal Pizza varieties will include chicken with cranberry and brie, Smoked whitefish from Calumet Fisheries with mushy peas and fingerlings and definitely a pizza with sweet corn-- the kind that is sold from a stand on the side of the road in the country.
The beauty of the wood-fired oven is that the hearth is still hot the next morning and can be utilized for cooking other things, which is ideal for our Sunday Carvery entrees and the debut of another soon to be classic Pleasant House special, the hearth-cooked English Breakfast— and for baking bread. We'd also like to revive the tradition of the community oven by allowing people to bake off their homemade breads in the oven and to hold classes where Chelsea will teach how to make her Irish soda bread and guest artisan bakers from the neighborhood and elsewhere will teach ethnic artisan bread recipes.
See Art's photos of the event here.