A Brief History of the Pizza Oven
Wood-fired brick ovens and pizza have been with us since the dawn of civilization.
Both have been discovered in the excavations of virtually every ancient
civilization, with the brick oven reaching its modern form in ancient Rome. The
brick ovens uncovered in ancient Pompeii are in wonderful shape, and could start
baking today with only minor renovations. The shops themselves resembled
modern pizzerias, with granite counters, and a salad bar featuring both hot and
cold foods and drinks to accompany the pizza. It makes you think there is little
new under the sun.
Medieval brick ovens can be found throughout Europe, often with little variation
from the original Roman round, domed oven chamber, and front vent design. In
northern Europe, the ovens tended to be larger and the property of the local
Lord—who owned both the oven and the heat inside it, and would charge the
serfs for baking their bread. In Italy, where the feudal system took a less firm grip,
the ovens tended to be owned by individual families and were smaller—which is
the foundation for Italy’s modern pizza oven industry. Round ovens built from
brick, and even local stone, have been built in Italy seemingly forever. Virtually
every Tuscan farmhouse has, or had, an original brick or stone oven, and many are
still being used today.
The different cooking requirements between a commercial bakery, pizzeria, and
homeowner created a split in brick oven design in the 18th century. The French, or
Scottish oven, also known as a White Oven, features a low barrel vault,
rectangular footprint and separate firing chamber below the cooking chamber.
These ovens are efficient at cooking large volumes of bread and are still used
throughout Europe. (In contrast, “Black Ovens” have the fuel source in the same
chamber as the food being cooked.)
Prefabricated ovens and stoves were created in Victorian England during the
industrial revolution, and signal