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My Pizza Oven: Sue Wong - Busy, WFO-Obsessed Moms, Represent!

Last week I got an email from today's My Pizza Oven subject, Sue Wong: "I just started reading Slice a couple of months ago and absolutely love it. Just had my first wood-fired oven installed in my backyard a month ago and have been reading everything I can on pizza, and your blog is my favorite." Well, if Ms. Wong was gunning for a MPO spot, she knew just the right buttons to push. Flattery gets you everywhere, right? Anyway, without further ado, let's put Sue in the hot seat. —The Mgmt.

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[Photographs: Sue Wong]

Name: Sue Wong
Location: Phoenix

What kind of oven do you have?

It's a pre-assembled beehive oven from Forno Bravo (their Primavera series), so it's not as impressive as your last entry from Flagstaff (which was really fun to read, by the way). But I would be glad to represent the busy, working moms who still want to enjoy wood-fired pizza in their backyards.

A great demographic to represent, Sue. So, when did you buy it/put it in? How long did installation take?

I bought a pre-assembled Forno Bravo oven (Primavera 60) which came in about a month ago. I knew I wanted a pre-assembled unit because being a working mom with two young boys, I just didn't have the time to construct one from the bottom up. It sat on a pallet in my garage for a couple of days before I could round up around 7 to 8 friends and family to move it to our backyard. It weights more than 400 pounds, and getting it to its final position was quite a task.

Hah. I bet the promise of pizza cooked in it helped motivate your friends. Do you cook for them and/or your neighbors?

Every chance I get. Sunday nights seem to work well for us. I prep everything on Saturday and invite people over on Sunday evenings. But since I've been wanting to get as much practice in as possible, we've had friends and family over on Monday nights, Tuesday nights, Thursday nights....

LOL. I guess that brings me naturally to my next question.... How often do you use it?

About twice a week. Right now, it's like a new toy, so we invite all of our friends and family over whenever we get a chance. Every weekend we have people over now. Plus, the weather in Phoenix is still great. A couple more months and it will be sweltering.

Do you cook anything besides pizza in it?

I've only roasted vegetables in it: asparagus, cauliflower, stuffed mushrooms. I like the idea of using the heat while the oven is preheating for pizzas, but I'm still playing around with that. I'd eventually like to try roasting a chicken or rib roast, and would also like to try some breads. But for this first month, it's been 95% pizzas.

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The classic: pizza Margherita.

What style of pizza do you normally do?

I've stuck to the classic Neapolitan pizza, but I'd like to try both Roman and sourdough pizzas.

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What's your favorite topping or topping combination to make?

My favorite is mild Italian sausage made locally at Di Falco's with caramelized onions and peperoncini (above). I'll also do a white pizza with fontina, fresh mozzerella, arugula, and prosciutto di Parma. And of course, I'll do the classic Margherita.

What does your family think of your pizza madness?

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My husband enjoys it but thinks that I've gone over the edge. I study YouTube videos making dough, stretching dough, cooking pizzas... I read blogs, forums, anything I can about wood-fired pizza. My kids love making their own pizzas. My younger son, at 5 years old (above), has quite a good palate and has a strong sense of how much sauce, cheese, and toppings are appropriate. He's eaten at some of the best pizzerias in the country and knows good pizza!

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My older son helping at the oven.

Lucky kid! Speaking of kids ... the Pizza Cognition Theory states that "the first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes ... becomes, for him, pizza." Do you remember your first slice? Where was it from, is the place still around, and if so, does it hold up? On that note, has your taste in pizza evolved over time?

I used to take ice skating lessons at the mall when I was in grade school and there was a food court which overlooked the ice skating rink. Occasionally, my mom would let me get a slice from Pizza d'Amore. I thought it was the best tasting pizza ever. It had a thick, chewy crust and they would slice it in rectangles. It would ooze with cheese and was my favorite pizza as a kid. Now, I obviously have a preference for wood fired pizza with large, airy cornicione and fresh toppings.

Where do you go for pizza in your area (when you're not making your own)?

There's a nice little wood-fired-oven place within walking distance from our house. It's called Classic Italian Pizza. I like it because it's a true neighborhood place and it's casual and relaxed. For a real treat, I'll go down to Pizzeria Bianco, but with two kids, we have to make reservations (usually a month) in advance. It's hard to wait two hours with little ones, so I wait until I can get reservations.

What's most important to you: crust, sauce, or cheese?

Crust. I've spent almost all my time working on getting my crust right. I'm getting much closer and am figuring out the right hydration, fermentation time, etc. As soon as I feel more comfortable with the crust, I'll put more focus on the sauce and toppings. As for cheese, I stick mostly with fresh mozzerella, but experiment with Fontina, and a few others.

Anything you'd like to get off your chest?

OK, I have to confess that I find it thrilling when one of my pizzas slides smoothly from the peel onto the wood-fired oven hearth. Is this appropriate?

Believe me, I've read far racier things in my time. Going back to inappropriateness, what one thing should NEVER go on a pizza?

Chinese bitter melon (foo-gwa).

Weirdest pizza you've ever eaten?

Nothing that I would consider weird.

What's the farthest you've traveled for pizza?

I've only been on my pizza obsession for a few months now, but we did take a trip to LA over spring break and I had to stop by Nancy Silverton's Pizzeria Mozza. Loved it. We had the Fungi Misti. Yummm.

Alright! Thanks for being a good sport, Sue. It's been a pleasure talking with you. I think everyone will agree that you did a great job holding it down for busy pizza-loving WFO-obsessed moms out there!

More from the 'My Pizza Oven' Series

Pizza Hacker: Renegade Pieman of SF »
Caleb Schiff (aka Flagstaff Forno) »
A Pizza Oven Glows in Brooklyn »
Alberto of "Forno Pizza" »
Nick and Robin Gladdis, Paso Robles, Calif. »
Paulie Gee, Pizza Madman of New Jersey »
Mark Graban, Fort Worth, Texas »
Steve O. in Wisconsin »
Dan Curry, Kansas City »

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