Traditional hearth ovens, fired with wood, once stood as a symbol of shared sustenance and celebration of a community alive and thriving. A hub of light and warmth around which small farming communities the world over once revolved, hearth ovens have become the province of pizzerias and artisanal bakers seeking the deep, satisfying flavors they produce.
Designing the remodeled Deli department at Willy East, we thought and talked a lot about what message we wanted to send about the food we love and want to share. In today’s market, there are a blinding array of options ready to be dropped at your doorstep, many emphasizing convenience, efficiency and programmability. A hearth oven has none of these attributes. Nevertheless, we chose to pursue it because we feel it is part of a world which Willy Street Co-op Owners and shoppers have an affinity for, of traditional foodways and simple, strong flavors.
Our hearth oven will not be wood-fired, the most traditional method. Wood ovens are wonderful, but typically run at very high heat and with a lot of variability in where that heat is available inside the oven. We wanted the ability to govern heat precisely for a variety of foods and to be able to offer the menu consistently throughout the day. The oven we chose uses gas heat and can be regulated using a thermostat. This also means that the oven will burn cleaner and more safely for staff and customers.
On the menu
Pizza will, of course, be on our menu, as will hot sandwiches with house-roasted meats and relishes, roast chicken and baked pastas. Our oven will be completed in the waning days of summer, if all goes to plan, and we hope to grab that last piece of the harvest season to get some big flavors out of the oven from local late tomatoes, garlic, fennel and herbs. We may also try our hand at some fruit focaccias, simple to make and a delicious marriage of sweet and savory flavors.
By the time you read this, our oven should be up and running, so come in as soon as you can and try something from the oven menu! It’s a new project for us and one we’re excited to launch, so please give us your ideas and feedback for menu items you’d like to see as we get rolling.