"Renato poured me a beauty" - Excerpt from an interview with Chris Bianco by Food Arts Mag
In the case of Bianco, "I had my first wood-burning oven built for me by Renato Riccio, when they were in Dallas, about 20 years ago. It was a little difficult. Renato was still new in the business, and I didn't really know what I was doing. But I had this image. I had seen some ancient bread ovens in Pompeii. They had essentially the same design as pizza ovens today. Nothing had really changed. I'd been making my pizzas in a Bakers Pride oven. It made a beautiful pizza. I made wonderful focaccia at home in my kitchen oven. But I wanted something that was classic and Renato poured me a beauty."
Bianco went to the right guy. Riccio is one of the legends of the pizza oven business. As a child in Tuscany, he had worked as a bricklayer. At the age of 20, he headed for America with only $3, yes $3, in his pocket. After several years working in restaurants, he had saved enough money to import a wood-burning oven from Italy. He opened a restaurant called the Bel Air Grill, offering the first pizza baked in a wood-burning oven in Dallas. In 1981, he opened Renato Ovens. He says, "The phone hasn't stopped ringing since."
Bianco says, "The genius of a great oven maker is to know how to insulate, to know how to create an oven that maximizes the heat and then holds it. The oven is no more important than any other part of the process, even the paddle is important. But if the oven isn't doing its job, nothing else matters. It may just be a tool, but it's got to be a tool that works."