he charcoal grill is fired up and ready to go. I am visiting the home of Madison’s very own La Fortuna Pizza crew: Jen, Scott and Evie Lynch. You might have seen them cruising around town in their black pick-up with their grandiose, mobile wood-fired pizza oven in tow. I’m here seeking a bit of professional advice: How to make a “grilled pizza.”
As I quickly find out, there really is no such thing as a grilled pizza. Scott explains, “A lot of people have tried to make brick oven pizza on their grill. But the closest you can come is a grilled flatbread.” Though the Lynches do not serve flatbreads at their business, it is something they might make for a quick dinner at home, and it’s certainly easy enough for even the novice grill master.
The Lynches’ gleaming red trailer has become a staple at area farmers’ markets and festivals where you can taste their fresh approach to serving an old world classic. Jen and Evie work in a large screen room, surrounded by containers of sauces and toppings, while Scott slings the pies into the nine-hundred-degree oven for the ninety seconds it takes to bake it to bubbly charred perfection. As Scott says, “Who doesn’t want to gather around a fire? It’s in our primal nature to gather and watch flames.”
Back at their house, we head inside to make the flatbread dough, which is the same recipe they use for their pizzas. [Find this recipe and more in my for Madison Magazine‘s August issue.]
I am impressed with the passion and science that the Lynches put into their pizza making. Their dough is perfectly crispy and bubbly on the outside, and chewy inside. The secret? Keep it simple and give it time. Scott explains how important it is that the dough rest; the yeast needs time to metabolize the carbohydrates. Sure, you can buy pre-made dough; but, honestly, it is so easy to make your own (there was NO kneading!) that why bother? It literally takes five minutes to measure and mix the dough in a stand mixer. After that it simply rests—six hours at room temperature—covered, on a lightly floured surface.
In their comfy kitchen, Evie washes the tomatoes while Jen shaves the parmesan. Scott throws the cherry tomatoes on the grill, and they begin to sizzle. We are making a simple summer flatbread with pesto, parmesan and tomatoes. I am drooling from the first whiff of caramelizing tomatoes, but as Scott and Jen start to list some of their favorite pizza toppings, I realize this is just a morsel of an idea. One of Scott’s favorite is the OMB—Oh My Bacon—a pie topped with roasted onions, roasted chopped tomatoes, bacon and parmesan. The Assaria, Jen’s top pick, infuses chili oil with roasted onions, bacon, parmesan and rhubarb puree. Evie prefers the Bianca—olive oil, garlic salt, fresh rosemary, black pepper, provonello and parmesan.
Within minutes, the dough is beautifully charred. We quickly scatter the toppings over the crust, and dig in to a home-cooked summer meal.
No matter what flavor or seasonal ingredient they are featuring, the Lynches’ first love is feeding people delicious and fresh pizza where each bite brings you closer to our area farmers. That’s why Madison’s farmers’ markets are one of their favorite places to fire up the oven. “You actually get to see the connection between the ingredients we use and the farmers that produce it,” Jen explains.
They also enjoy making pizzas at family parties or corporate events. “You want people to have a great time at parties. Since we can cook a delicious, hot meal so quickly, they don’t have to interrupt their conversations to eat,” says Scott. “Pizza is celebration food. We love to bring people together around fresh, hot food. It builds community.”
Scott sums it up well, saying their pizza “is the fastest slow food you will ever have.”
Scott recently suffered from a detached bicep muscle—an unfortunate setback during their busy summer season—but he is recovering well from surgery and La Fortuna will be back soon. Find the mobile oven at the Verona Farmers’ Market starting August 7, or New Glarus Brewing Co. Hilltop Brewery on August 10 and 11. You can find their current schedule and info on their Facebook page or website.
Photos by Laura Mayer and Otehlia Cassidy.