When we rolled up to the Downtown Austin Farmers' Market 15 minutes before closing, we gravitated to the Bola Pizza mobile wood-fired oven. Most of the menu was already crossed-off, but owner Christian Bowers made room for another "Godfather" pie in his blue tile-covered oven for us. "That was done by a mosaic artist friend, Stefanie Destifano, who was actually a plus-one at one of our pizza nights," explained Christian.
Bola started as a Tuesday night pizza gathering with friends, family, food writers, chefs, line cooks, and too many plus-ones to name, where Christian and his wife Jamie toyed with doughs and toppings. And the official taste-tester? Their dog Bola, the namesake. "After years of doing that every other Tuesday, people started asking me for pizza classes," Christian said.
He eventually installed a wood-fired oven (from Forno Bravo) in his backyard, but attached it to a trailer to leave room for a future mobile business. It took a while to secure a farmers' market permit, but in 2010, Bola started setting up at Republic Square in downtown Austin on Saturdays and the Triangle market on Wednesdays, and the catering took off from there.
The Bola menu rotates. "Polka Dot" is topped with parmesan, mozzarella, fried sage, shaved garlic and red pepper flakes. "Truffle Daisy" is their spin on the classic margherita but with truffle oil instead of olive oil (if you're not a truffle oil fan, they're happy to do a traditional version with olive oil instead). We ordered the "Godfather," made with smoked mozzarella, hot fennel sausage (from Richardson Farm), caramelized onions and a simple, fresh tomato sauce.
After three or so minutes in the 900-degree fire, the pizzas slide into a box, still steamy. The crust is similar to a traditional Neapolitan crust: slightly crisp on the outside, chewy in the middle with bubbles, pretty light. Nice leopard spotting underneath too. The dough actually undergoes a three-day ferment, so it's a teeny bit sour. The tomato sauce is light and simple, made with crushed San Marzanos, some salt and pepper, and garlic. It's spread onto the dough still raw, then cooks in the oven. "If you cook it first, the flavor gets dumbed down."
Christian tried making his own mozzarella at first using local Austin curds, but eventually gave up when he found a Jersey cow mozzarella he loved. He buys the rest of the toppings from local farms whenever possible.
There's talk of a brick-and-mortar in Bola's stars. "We have had three offers, but are taking a cautious approach. We have a whole second menu," Christian said.
In the meantime, follow @bolapizza for their whereabouts.
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