The woodfire from clay oven lends to the pizzas a flavour entirely different from the chain-store pizzas
Getting to the place in Mangalore that serves woodfired pizzas is easy. That is, provided you know it exists. For one, there are no boards announcing the place. Two, even if you do reach it, you could miss it. Smoke ‘n’ Oven Café is tucked away inside a old-Mangalore-styled tiled house in a rambling lane in Jeppu.
Woodfired pizza is the café’s flagship product though there is, among others, pasta, lasagne, quesadilla and various flavoured sodas (including one called ‘Vimto’) on the menu card.
Vaibhav Bhat, the café owner, said the woodfire lends to the pizzas a flavour entirely different from the chain-store pizzas. They are baked in clay ovens made especially for the café by a man called Francis. The pizzas are made from locally found ingredients. The vegetables are from the city market, the dough is made in the café, and they grow lemongrass and basil right at the entrance of the cafe. The cutlery is all earthenware made by artisans in Pilikula. Pavan and Nithin, students of Srinivas College of Hotel Management help with baking the pizzas in the evenings. Shijo Yesudhos, who also helps in the café, said Mr. Bhat gets firewood and delivers orders to homes. He said students, families and working people visit the place and often celebrate birthday parties there.
But there is a price to pay for these special pizzas. It can take up to half an hour to bake them; so till they arrive, instead of drumming their fingers on the table, customers can keep themselves busy with indoor board games.
Mr. Bhat said he switched from selling auto insurance to American clients in a business process outsourcing (BPO) centre to starting the café because it fused three of his dreams: to run a beach shack, set up a 100 per cent cement-free place and a pizza place.
The ambience is rustic-cosy, with a seating space for 25 people. The highlight of the place is the sound of the trains passing by behind the café, just a few minutes before they reach the Mangalore Central railway station.