Joe Luckey describes cooking pizza in a wood-fired oven like driving a stick-shift transmission. There’s a lot of touching and voila, feeling the dough to get a read on how it behaves on any particular day; test the fire to make sure it’s hot and big enough to get the leopard spot you want without burning the bottom of the bark; and feel the oven, which seems organic and alive. It’s the reason he gives when asked why, as a chef well-versed in haute cuisine, he decided to hire a seemingly simple pizza counter in the City Foundry’s Food Hall, and a major factor behind the creativity he brings to his pies. Neapolitan inspired. a Fordo’s Killer Pizza (3730 Foundry Road).
Luckey was a natural choice to lead chef and restaurateur Gerard Craft’s City Foundry pizza project. After working for Craft at Taste and the French-inspired Brasserie in the Central West End, Luckey was tapped to run the kitchen at Craft’s Nashville outpost of his popular Clayton restaurant, Pastaria, where he worked for two years before leaving. Back to the brand Clayton. flagship. During his time at both Pastaria locations, he fell in love with the pizza station, where he considered baking pies in the hot wood-fired oven the most fun he had ever had in his culinary career. When Craft began sketching out a plan for a Neapolitan-style pizzeria at the City Foundry, he immediately recognized Luckey as the person to help carry out his vision.
Part of Craft’s reasoning was Luckey’s undeniable passion for wood-fired pizza. More importantly though, he saw Luckey as someone who would find creative inspiration in form rather than feel confined by it. He encouraged Luckey to nail down the standards (one Margherita, four cheeses, one pepperoni), but then left him free to be as creative as he wanted with the concept. Driven by that mandate and anchored by Craft’s excellent pizza crust recipe, which was created especially for Fordo’s, Luckey set out to transform a humble food counter into a bastion of pizza-based creativity.
Luckey debuted his creations when Fordo’s opened to the public last May. Tucked away in the southeast corner of the food hall, the stall (or “kitchen,” as they’re technically called at City Foundry) has a secluded feel from the rest of the complex’s hustle and bustle. The corner lot-style ambience is necessary because of the pizzeria’s sizable oven: a huge wooden Vesuvio oven made by esteemed Italian maker Gianni Acunto that looks less like a kitchen appliance and more like a white stone trullo that dotted the Italian region of Puglia. It’s a no-nonsense outfit that draws attention to the booth, but a beautifully deranged mural by artist Vidhya Nagara who is equal parts Eric Ripert and Glen Danzig lends an air of irreverence to the place. The same goes for Fordo’s playlist, affectionately referred to by the team as “wood-firing bops,” which plays throughout the service.
Luckey points out that the playlist is a departure from other Niche Food Group kitchens: that at the other Craft properties, music is allowed during prep time, but once service begins, the radio turns off and it’s time. to get down to work. Fordo’s buzz along with melodies throughout the workday captures the spirit of what Craft and Luckey wanted to achieve here: a whimsical and fun romp anchored in the Niche Food Group culinary philosophy, but can be made playful thanks to the fundamentally light-hearted genre of pizza.
Hawaiian pizza captures this spirit. Here, Luckey begins with Craft’s dough recipe, which leads to a master level crust. Puffed to a pillow-soft texture around the edges, but soft and thin in the middle like a Neapolitan pie, the crust has these perfect cranberry-sized charred spots that crumble to the point of breaking but never cross that line. . The charcoal adds a beautiful, toasty bitterness to the otherwise nutty crust, and serves as a built-in counter to the sweetness of the Hawaiian Roasted Pineapple Dip. Unlike a typical Hawaiian pie that scatters chunks of pineapple over the pizza, Fordo’s caramelized tropical sauce permeates each bite and melts into the accompanying mozzarella cheese topping. Slices of Volpi Heritage prosciutto, cut so thin they’re translucent, cover every millimeter of the pizza’s non-puffed-edge surface, coating the plate in a savory luxury that’s brightened by spicy red onion and jalapeño. It’s an awesome riff on form.
Instead of a standard sausage pizza, Fordo’s offers one made with chunks of gloriously rich beef sausage and loaded with spices. The rendered fat from the meaty crumbles is mixed with the savory roasted tomato sauce and browns the melted fontina and Parmesan cheeses that top the pie. Bell peppers, scallions, and caramelized sweet onions that are so soft you could spread them finish off this superbly satisfying dish.
One of Luckey’s more creative twists is shakshuka, a pizza take on the North African breakfast dish. Here, she starts by coating the crust in a warm-spiced red pepper sauce that is typical of the traditional version of the dish, then tops it with egg whites before it hits the oven. She admits this isn’t conventional, but it’s an approach that’s resulted in many failures, most of them having to do with breaking whole eggs into cake. By separating the yolks and finishing the pizza with them when he comes out of the oven, he can cook the whites into a beautiful layer that acts as a substitute for fresh cheese. Yolks, feta and fresh herbs are layered on top of this base as soon as it comes out of the oven for a dish that is not only delicious but showcases the innovation that can come from even a humble concession stand.
Luckey’s more conventional offerings are just as successful. A Margherita pizza, the standard by which all Neapolitan-style pizzerias should be judged, hits the mark flawlessly with its bright tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella rounds, and basil leaves. A four cheese blends mozzarella, Taleggio, fontina and Parmesan beautifully with a drizzle of honey; its sweetness is a beautiful contrast to the subtle funk of the cheeses. A wild mushroom pie cleverly combines mushrooms with citrus gremolata to brighten up the earthiness, and a quintessential pepperoni pizza captures the gloriously greasy, cheesy comfort you crave from such a concoction, right down to the pepperoni oil that pools on the sausage slightly. full of craters. slices. Combined with Fordo’s delicious Garlic Confit Puree, it’s an easy and decadent treat.
Luckey describes the laborious process of making that garlic puree. First, caramelize fresh garlic cloves in butter, slow and low, to bring out the sweetness without the burnt bitterness that comes from going too fast. Like cooking a cake in a wood-fired oven, there is an art and a feeling to such an endeavor.
He also says that he came up with the idea for Papa John’s garlic sauce seasoning. If there was ever a better summary of this wonderful addition to the area’s pizza scene, I’d like to see it.
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