David Sheridan's Backyard Brooklyn Wood-Fired Pizza Oven
Early this past summer, David Sheridan emailed me some photos of his budding pizza oven. Wow! Another backyard pizza oven in Brooklyn, I thought. That's not exactly an everyday occurrence. Anyway, a few weeks ago, David emailed that he had finished his oven — well, all but tiling the exterior of it. Good enough! It was time for the official My Pizza Oven interview. Let's get him in the hot seat. —The Mgmt.
Name: David Sheridan
Location: Gravesend, Brooklyn
How long have you had your pizza oven? Did you build it yourself?
I built the oven myself but not completely alone. I had been thinking about an oven for a couple of years, maybe three. I don't remember the actual shove that had me move from thinking to doing. After obsessing over the plans from FornoBravo.com as well as reading everything I could find about pizza ovens, I made the jump in November of 2009. My good friend David Rathke and I cleared out the mess my backyard had become, dug a hole for the foundation, and poured it. A couple of weekends later the base walls went up and then the hearth. That ended the work for 2009. I really have to thank David for his help. I probably would have given up without his assistance.
A pivotal point in the build was when I reviewed the slideshow of Donatella's new oven being built by Stefano Ferrara on Slice. I decided to try to mimic how the dome was completed using the "slurry" technique. It worked a treat and I would highly recommend serious consideration of this for anyone building their own oven in the future.
What?!? Seriously? Glad something I did here turned out useful for someone. ... So, how often do you use it?
Once to twice a week.
Do you cook anything besides pizza in it?
I've roasted vegetables on post-pizza days and have used the oven as a smoker. I like the roasting in particular because it makes use of heat from the pizza firing. I want to try bread pretty soon and plan to cook a Thanksgiving turkey in there this year.
What style of pizza do you normally do?
I strive to do Neapolitan-style crust.
What's your favorite topping or topping combination to make?
That is a tough one. I fell squarely into the traditional topping camp for a long time. I have branched out now especially after doing some apprenticeship work at Paulie Gee's. My wife's favorite topping is prosciutto with arugula — we add a little bit of lemon now like Paulie Gee's version.
Do you cook for friends/neighbors?
Absolutely. I love to do this and appreciate having a group to feed. I fear the day my family and friends become weary of pizza.
Who gets tired of pizza?!? What do those folks think of your pizza madness?
They're very supportive and understanding. I pay them off with pizza.
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 honestly don't know. My first pizza memories are from Louisville, Kentucky, where my family moved when I was 10 from NYC. I recall Friday as pizza night featuring Papa John's or Little Caesars. There is a place for that type of pizza, but my tastes have definitely evolved.
Where do you go for pizza in your area (when you're not making your own)?
Ciccio's on Avenue U is my preferred local slice joint. Totonno's is not too far away and that is tops in the area for me. But, living in NYC, I have a lot of choices. With just a little traveling, I'd say Paulie Gee's and Motorino are my favorites. These are the places I strive to emulate with my own homemade pizza.
What's the farthest you've traveled for pizza?
My wife and I took a trip to New Haven, Connecticut, specifically for pizza last year.
Who would you like to see interviewed next?
Pete-zza from PizzaMaking.com. I, and many others, have learned so much from PizzaMaking.com and Pete in particular.
I've actually asked Pete-zza. He sent back a thoughtful response in which he didn't necessarily dismiss the notion out of hand but wanted questions that he thought would "bring out the best of what [he] could offer without boring people to tears." I'll have to solicit Slice'rs for question ideas — but in a separate post. Anyway, thanks, David, for playing along and for the great pizza last week!