By Narelle Coulter
Joe and Kristen Cammarano have created a little slice of Italy in their Lang Lang backyard.
The couple installed a wood fired pizza oven six years ago and cooking up traditional Italian-style pizzas has become a family affair.
Joe, Kristen, their five children are usually joined by other family and friends most weekends around the huge family dining table as they share slices of pizza dripping with home made napoli sauce, cheese, cured meats and other favourite toppings.
The couple bought their pizza oven in kit form and installed it directly opposite their sliding dining room window. Joe, a former concreter who now drives trains, concreted over the ceramic structure, giving the oven an authentic, earthy look.
It takes Joe four hours to get the oven up to an even 400 degrees, perfect for cooking pizza. He uses small pieces of red gum and a few fire lighters to get it going.
And how does he know when the oven is ready?
“If I put my hand in and the heat is unbearable then I know it’s ready,“ he said, laughing.
In contrast the cooking process itself is extremely quick, with each pizza taking around 90 seconds to cook perfectly – slightly charred on the bottom and the base puffed around the edges.
Joe is master of the nepoli sauce combining onion, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, basil and sugar with bottled passatta. Two bottles of passatta covers about 10 pizza bases.
Kristen is in charge of the dough combining flour, dry yeast, some of her sour dough starter, salt, sugar and semolina for crunch.
She stretches the dough by hand, forming it bases of around 11 inches in diameter.
Favourite family toppings vary from olives, anchovies and salami to finely sliced potato, rosemary and blue cheese.
Other nights it’s roast chicken and barbecue sauce or a simple topping of garlic and cheese.
One of Joe’s favourite combinations is ham and egg with lots of black pepper, while Kristen likes pumpkin and fetta.
“We like the simple ones. The kids like theirs to be a bit more flash,“ Kristen said.
“We experiment with whatever is in the fridge.“
“If we are feeling fancy we will go to the Victoria market and buy fresh mozarella,“ added Joe.
One of Joe’s secrets to the perfect pizza is a generous dollop of his garlic oil sprinkled over the toppings. He mixes fresh crushed garlic with olive oil and salt.
The family tucks into pizza at least once a week.
“It has become a bit of a tradition. The kids love it. They bring friends over and it is a really social way to eat,“ Kristen said.
“And making your own is much cheaper than buying pizza.“
The couple also use their pizza oven for cooking bread, hot cross buns, steak, whole butterflied chicken and charring eggplant for babaganoush.