Large bulbous structures with a fiery glow in their bellies, wood-fire ovens put the show in the term “show kitchen”. Traditionally, they are in the domain of Italian restaurants. Think places such as Trattoria and Pizzeria L’Operetta, and “high street-food” concept restaurant Cicheti which offers Neapolitan pizzas, alongside dishes such as roasted asparagus, cooked in its two-tonne oven. In recent years, however, new, non-Italian establishments are also adopting this age-old cooking device.
The most high-profile of the lot would be Burnt Ends – opened in May 2013 – which bowled us over with a diverse range of dishes smoked, roasted, baked, grilled and even cooked directly on coals in its four-tonne, dual-cavity ovens, which are fed with apple and almond wood. Earlier this year, Lollapalooza opened its doors to reveal a wood-fire oven costing about $60,000.
“It is very current – many people want food simply prepared to highlight the provenance of the produce,” says restaurant owner Thaddeus Yeo. “Cooking with a wood-fire oven brings you back to basics.” Within its cavernous belly measuring 1.6m wide and 1.2m deep comes nicely charred seasonal vegetables, tender-roasted seafood and juicy grilled meats.