Tomatoes Apizza: Coal-Oven Pizza in Michigan
There is a coal-oven pizza place in Farmington Hills, Michigan, called Tomatoes Apizza. It recently added the coal oven. The owner learned his art in New Haven, Connecticut.
Dear P. J.,
Thanks for the intel on Tomatoes Apizza. I did some quick Googling and found this story from late January 2008 that details owner Michael Weinstein's pizza pedigree:
Weinstein was nine years old when he fell in love with pizza. He was visiting his father's hometown of New Haven, Conn., and the family went out to eat on Wooster Street. Legendary in pizza lore, Wooster is where Frank Pepe brought pizza from Naples, Italy, in 1925. New Havenites claim Pepe was the first to bring pizza to America, a fact one shouldn't argue at Tomatoes Apizza, which Weinstein considers "an embassy" of that pizza city.
Pepe's nephew opened Sally's across the street, and with the addition of Abate's, Wooster Street is home to a triumvirate of pizza royalty to this day....
After graduating from West Bloomfield [Michigan] High School, he attended the Culinary Institute of America, then got a job at Abate's (Pepe's and Sally's only hire family).
He opened his first Tomatoes Apizza on Halsted Road at age 25. Five years later, he opened his second restaurant, but it wasn't until three months ago that he installed the coal-fired oven of his dreams in the location on 14 Mile Road.
The five ton "Goliath," made from brick with an aluminum shell, is the largest shippable oven in the world. Not only was the expense "absurd," Weinstein admits the oven is completely impractical. He has to wake up earlier than ever and spend two hours stoking the temperature to a perfect 1900 degrees.
Though I've snipped from the story above, I've got a couple nits to pick. First, I will argue with the notion that Pepe was the first to bring pizza to America. Gennaro Lombardi was operating his pizzeria in 1905, a full two decades before Pepe's opened. While I appreciate both New York and New Haven styles, with each genre's pros and cons, I can't sit here and brook the notion that New Haven is America's first pizza city.
Second, I think the writer made a mistake in claiming the oven temperature reaches 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm guessing she meant 900 degrees, which is in line with wood- and coal-oven temperatures I've encountered in my years of Slicing.
Hasta la pizza,
Address: 29275 14 Mile Road, Farmington Hills MI 48334 (map)
Notes: There's a second Tomatoes location, but it is not coal-oven. Only the 14 Mile Road location burns the black stuff.