The quarantine has brought out people’s innate passion for food and cooking. With many restaurants closed and people’s movement restricted, many have inevitably turned themselves either into home cooks or food entrepreneurs. This led to the rising popularity of various kitchen tools and equipment: air fryers, electric mixers, Korean barbecue grills, multi-cookers, and coffee makers.
Recently, one kitchen appliance that’s been gaining attention is the pizza oven. Yup, not a regular home oven—a.k.a. your mom’s La Germania—but a pizza oven that can either be wood- or gas-fired, or electric. And because many would want to have family “outings”—picnics, camping, glamping, swimming in their backyard—the portable oven is very much the kind preferred at the moment. You know, something you can easily bring in and out of the house.
The advent of portable pizza ovens
One store that’s seen a spike in their pizza oven sales is Bacchus International. The company is a known distributor of premium wines, fine food, and kitchen tools. “Actually, it’s not only pizza ovens [that’s flying off the shelves now], but cookware and kitchen equipment in general,” notes company president Alex Lichaytoo, “because people are cooking more at home.”
Bacchus World, Alex's wholesale site, has been selling pizza ovens to restaurants and pizzerias for a few years now. But about two years ago, he noticed Italian companies started making the smaller pizza ovens for the home as well, so he began offering them in their specialty food store, Bacchus Épicerie. Over the past year, he did notice a rise in the sales of their small pizza oven, the G3 Ferrari in particular. The said pizza maker costs P9,500.
Alex claims they have sold hundreds of this clam-shell type electric pizza ovens. What small families appreciate about it is that it’s small and user-friendly. “It’s like a toaster oven. You just plug it in, heat it for 10 minutes and you can cook your pizza already. The heat of this oven goes up to 600°F,” he offers.
Meanwhile, more serious pizza cooks prefer the wood-fired or LPG-run Alfa ovens. We say serious not only because the price range of this pizza machine goes from P100,000 to P200,000. It’s also very “high-tech,” classy and portable like a Weber grill with wheels. “It comes in countertop models. You just disconnect the chimney and you can bring it with you anywhere,” he says. It’s made of stainless steel and is insulated.
The other type of oven offered at Bacchus Épicerie is the Valoriani, which is a traditional stone oven. “The beauty of stone is it retains heat much longer,” Alex offers. “But the impracticality of it is it’s so heavy.”
ABS-CBN news anchor and family guy Julius Babao owns a Valoriani Baby, a smaller model which showed up on his Instagram recently. It seems to be working well for the Babaos shown here having one of their pizza nights. Valoriani models range from P150,000 to P250,000.
“The higher the heat, the better, and the faster the pizza will cook. Both the Alfa and Valoriani make professional level pizzas,” says Alex, a staunch promoter of Italian cuisine and culture.
Another pizza oven brand generating a lot of buzz and excitement hereabouts and in many parts of the world is Ooni. Oven Depot founder Enzo Santos discovered the pizza oven brand through a friend when he was still working in Manchester, United Kingdom a couple of years back.
Enzo admits he knew nothing about pizza making at that time, but he thought of buying an Ooni as a Christmas gift for his parents. He brought one unit home to the Philippines in early December 2019, and by Christmas Day, the whole family was making pizza. “It was a hit,” Enzo shares with ANCX. “We were 20 people, and for the first time everyone was making pizza together. It’s probably the worst pizza we’ve made because, you know, it was our first time, but it was an experience. It brought the family together.”
The lightbulb moment, the idea to sell pizza ovens, came about a week after. That’s when he started doing a bit of research about what other ovens are available in the market. He found out the really good ones, like the one used by Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza, are really expensive—they cost about half a million. So he thought Ooni would be a game-changer.
Enzo started communicating with the brand during the early part of 2020. To test the market, he thought of offering the Ooni pizza oven via Viber groups, their first sales channel. “From there, we got a lot of inquiries from titos and titaswho ended up purchasing the ovens as a pre-order,” he shares. Even if the ovens took two to three months to arrive, orders poured in.
“When we got our batch of orders in September, we thought we had enough ovens to last us until Christmas. But by early November, we were already sold out,” Enzo shares.
By the first quarter of 2021, Enzo claims he’s already matched the sales in year 2020. “So our biggest problem has been stock,” he says. The thing is, if one wants to buy Ooni ovens abroad, there’s also a three-month waiting time. “Worldwide, there has been a shortage for Ooni ovens.”
A big majority of Enzo’s buyers are from the provinces. He thinks the reason people are buying pizza ovens outside Manila is because there is limited access to good pizzas in their area, especially during quarantine. “We have a lot of customers who couldn’t go to their favorite pizzerias, and if they did, they got the pizza as a takeaway and it wasn’t the best,” says Enzo. “So a lot of people want to make their pizza at home.”
Enzo also observed that many of the people who bought their ovens have started to sell pizzas. “We have about 10 customers that are now starting to use it for their businesses. A lot of bakeries have shifted from making bread to making pizza. The community for pizza is really growing,” he observes.
Ooni vs home oven
The difference between an Ooni oven from a regular home oven is that its heat goes up to 900°F, which is important if you want to achieve a really good quality Neapolitan-style pizza. “Ordinary ovens reach up to a maximum of 300°C [or 572°F]. When you cook a pizza there, it’s 5 to 10 minutes. But if you cook it in an Ooni oven, it will only take about a minute,” he says.
Oven Depot offers both gas- and wood-fired ovens. Asked which is more suited for home use, Enzo says it would depend on the customer. “Some like it easy and simple, so they go for the gas units. The ones who like to play around, who like to cook or bake, experiment, and want the authentic wood, smoke, and char, they go for the wood fired,” he says.
For people who are looking to make lots of pizza for the family, he suggests they get the bigger ovens. If they want to make pizza maybe once in a while, for maybe a family of three, he recommends the smaller one. If they like to cook and they’re familiar with barbecuing or doing experiments with breads, he suggests the wood-fired ones.
One happy customer is creative director and fashion stylist Randz Manucom, who owns an Ooni Koda 16 which he got for P30,000 at Oven Depot. He’s had it for six months and he’s been enjoying it. “It’s great! It’s everything I imagined it can do, and more.”
Randz says he’d definitely recommend pizza lovers to get a pizza oven. “You can get great pizza anywhere. But to make them yourself is truly more rewarding. Plus, you get to have full control of the flavors! (Unli mozzarella yes!),” he says.
All Ooni ovens are portable, and the legs are foldable as well. They are easy to set up, as per Enzo. All the user needs to do is place it on a table, unfold the legs so it stands, connect it to a gas tank, and then turn it on. The oven gets to 900°F in 15 to 20 minutes, and cooks the pizza a lot faster.
Owners like bringing their Ooni ovens to the beach, their hikes, or out-of-town trips. Enzo adds that the Ooni ovens are versatile. “People cook steaks, salmon, fish, vegetables, some even make ciabatta bread, pizza dough balls—it’s really like a portable oven that you can bring anywhere.”
Do you feel like you’re getting “budold” into buying a pizza oven while reading this article? Think of it this way: If you and your family are big pizza lovers and you imagine making pizza with them will be a regular thing, or if you’re planning to make a business out of it, then a pizza oven is definitely worth a buy. But if you don’t see any of that happening, perhaps just reconsider calling your favorite pizzeria to satisfy a craving. Baka gutom lang ‘yan.
[PS: For those in doubt as to whether they can create a good pizza dough, Bacchus Épicerie actually offers frozen dough balls. “They just have to defrost it and stretch it out into a pizza. We make it very easy for them, because to learn to make that dough is very complicated,” says Alex. The shop also offers mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and all sorts of pizza toppings. Enzo's brothers also offers pizza dough via @alldoughz.]