Since realizing his passion for flour at the age of 13, Alessandro Fonseca has always used a brick oven. Born and raised in Rome, Fonseca developed a keen interest in bread and pizza.
He moved to Canada in 1997, after spending time in Massachusetts and opening three restaurant locations there.
“I heard Vancouver was the toughest city for business, so I wanted to try it,” says Fonseca.
His newest Vancouver restaurant, Trilussa, is named after the pseudonym of the Italian poet Carlo Alberto Salustri, who wrote specifically in the Roman dialect.
“My grandfather studied his poetry, so that’s why I chose it. Plus it’s authentic Roman,”says Fonseca.
Brick is better
With his Roman upbringing and background as a cooking instructor, Fonseca knows the value of brick oven cooking.
“In a regular oven you need oil and it makes the pizza greasy. For my pizza, I cook without oil. It’s a very clean pizza,” says Fonseca.
Aside from pizza, there are a number of other dishes that can be made in the brick oven.
Fonseca often makes lasagne, cannelloni or chicken.
“You can make an egg sunny side up in the oven no problem,” says Fonseca.
Brick ovens at home
While Fonseca uses brick ovens for his restaurants, others seek to enjoy the benefits of brick oven cooking at home. Bert
Mollica, a third-generation Italian-Canadian, has undertaken the task of building a brick oven in his backyard this summer and describes it as a labour of love.
“This project is a personal one, and at times, frustrating. Many features are time dependant and once something is set it can’t be changed,” says Mollica.
During the week, Mollica works as a podiatrist and spends weekends working on his oven.
“This project has given me a purpose – which I thoroughly enjoy – because it is so different from my daily routine,” says Mollica.
Mollica was inspired by a trip to Italy a few years back, when he and his wife enjoyed minestrone soup and a pizza prepared in a wood-burning oven in a sun-kissed square in Siena.
“To me, it was an exquisite experience. The weather was fine and the company exceptional,” says Mollica.
After enjoying brick oven pizza at his friend’s place, Mollica was motivated to make having his own oven a reality, though some negotiating was required.
“I made a deal with my wife to build raised vegetable gardens in the backyard first, then she agreed to the oven,” he says.
Mollica grew up around brick construction – his father was a bricklayer and his grandfather a stone mason. He often calls his father for advice and knows that his grandfather, who immigrated to Canada from southern Italy, would be thrilled about the project.
“As a kid I helped my dad with bricklaying jobs and worked in construction to earn money,” says Mollica.
Although he never laid bricks himself, Mollica hopes that some of his father’s skills have been passed along through heredity and osmosis.
Mollica plans to have the oven, which will stand seven feet wide and six feet high when finished, ready to use by the end of the year.
“I am hopeful we can cook the Christmas turkey in this oven. But with summer being so beautiful, sometimes it is hard to make time to do it all,” he says.
When the oven is finished, Mollica hopes to pick the brains of pizza chefs like Fonseca about a number of topics, including the dough, the wood and the ingredients.
“It will take lots of trial and error, which I’m prepared to do, especially if that means you get to eat the mistakes!” he says.