Man. Fire. Meat.
That may be why I was so intrigued with "Il Forno," the ceramic, wood-fired oven used by the chefs at The Garlic restaurant in New Smyrna Beach. I was drawn to its warmth on a recent rainy visit, but became enamored of the ways of the Brotherhood as the chefs, my husband, and restaurant owner Jeff Gehris engaged in a deep, methodological study of the cooking practices on this wood-fired oven.
"The comment we get the most is 'Oh, this is a pizza oven.' Wood ovens aren't just for pizza anymore," he says.
Il Forno has an Italian lineage -- it was forged by Renatos of Texas, whose founder, Renato Riccio of Tuscany, Italy, considers it his calling to bring this style of cooking to America.
The prices for the commercial wood-burning ovens range from $10,700 to about $16,484. Groebner says that Europeans consider this style of cooking the only way to cook a steak. However, the oven isn't just for meat. Fish is seared on cedar oak planks. Brie cheese is blanketed in puff pastry and baked. Chops, chicken and vegetables also explode with flavor when they exit Il Forno and enter your mouth.
I sampled a tomato that had been kissed by the flames of Il Forno... a simple dish that delighted with the heat of a thousand suns bursting from the juices.
"Delicioso!" I think. My eyes roll toward the heavens, my mouth refuses to open to let anything interfere with this experience. I nod my head vigorously.
While Il Forno could probably make a shoe delicious, it's meat that is displayed front and center to entice customers to worship at the oven's feet.
"The meat's incredible," Perri whispers reverently. "It's a beautiful thing."