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Il Forno, it's not just for Pizza!

By Holehouse Construction Company on Jun 27, 2016 at 08:55 PM in Current News

Written by David Prato

Sometimes we get so busy building projects for others that our own get put off for a long time.  After living in the same house for over 30 years, most of the essentials like the kitchen and bath remodels, new paint and roof replacement, were out of the way.  It was time to do a fun and creative project, just because.

A little internet surfing for ideas and I walked in and announced to my bride of thirty-four years, "I'm going to build a pizza oven."  That, of course, was met with the typical roll of the eyes and a sigh that I knew meant, "what decade will that be finished?"

A little layout, digging and some concrete in the ground and there was a foundation.  Stack some block for the base and pour a colored concrete top to set the oven on.  The main cast shell made from refactory cement came from Forno Bravo.  They make a wide variety of ovens from basic kits to complete units which are good quality and much easier to use than cutting hundreds of bricks into wedge shaped pieces to create a dome.  This is when it dawned on me to start taking pictures of the project.

This is the oven wrapped with the nastiest insulation I have ever worked with. Yuck!

Il Forno, it's not just for Pizza!-1

Next up was a four coat stucco job.  You think doing a hard troweled finish on a flat surface is tough?

Try it on an igloo, good grief that was a pain.

Il Forno, it's not just for Pizza!-2

I also enjoy metal working along with carpentry and masonry work,

so next was a hand hammered copper chimney and a cap made on an English wheel.

Il Forno, it's not just for Pizza!-3

Just about complete and ready for a series of curing fires.  You need to slowly raise the temperature and intensity of the fire to drive all the moisture out of the materials before going "full pizza" of 800 to 900 degrees.  Rushing this can cause many problems with cracking and poor performance in the future.  I burned several small kindly fires over a week or two, making them a little bigger each time.

Il Forno, it's not just for Pizza!-4

Well, it didn't take a decade, only about a year.  An evening here, a weekend there and we were cooking.  It has been complete about two years now and I have found you can cook just about anything you can cook in the house oven with a little fire management.  Sometimes Il Forno gets fired up on Thursday night after work and we cook all through Sunday.  It's great fun and the social center of our patio.      

Pizza?  Yeah, we've made a few.

Il Forno, it's not just for Pizza!-5
Il Forno, it's not just for Pizza!-9

Beer Butt Chicken, Fantastic.

Bread is one of the things I really enjoy baking this way and it really works well for slow cooked meats, like ribs and pork shoulder.

Il Forno, it's not just for Pizza!-7
Il Forno, it's not just for Pizza!-6

This past Christmas we did a nice mushroom and zucchini frittata for breakfast and then a rib roast, roasted Brussel sprouts and mac n cheese for dinner.  The entire day cooking outdoors!

Il Forno, it's not just for Pizza!-8

The way the oven will heat to pizza temperature in under an hour and then maintain heat for hours and yes, even days, amazes me.  It was a really fun project and even more fun to cook with.  If you enjoy outdoor cooking, you won't regret the time and expense.  Remember though, you can't take it with you when you move!