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Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven

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  • Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven

    Been thinking this over for a long time and tracking the pro's and con's of round vs rectangular (i.e., Pompeii vs Scott design) for a pizza oven, as well as, Tuscan vs Neopolitan within the round dome realm... I tracked back serveral years in this forum as well as the forums over at and pulled references from James as well as Marco (pizzanapoletana) over at (I'm sure some of you are familiar with him and his pizza oven "philosophy"..)

    As I was sitting waiting for inspection of my foundation forms yesterday, I started to give serious thought to exactly what I wanted and thought I'd do a little more in depth research. I went out to the web and attempted to pull diameter, height, door height, door width dimensions and ratio's on every residential and commercial oven I could find with similar dimensions (42" int dia) in order to compare their interior height to diameter ratios and interior height to door height ratios... I calculated an average of the 5 or so I could find readily and compared that against stated Neopolitan design specs quoted by James & Marco... (Please note the pdf I've attached with results).

    I know many of you are very happy with theTuscan design and make great pizza with it, but I'm feeling a little brave and thinking I might be willing to risk some loss of time and maybe a few hundred bucks in firebrick if I screw up and make a true Neopolitan style pizza oven... I know it's harder.. I know it's pushing the envelope, but if colonelcorn76 never pushed the envelope, odds are, a lot of us would never have built our ovens... either that or they'd be Scott ovens... True??

    In order to clarify my thoughts I've attached a couple images submitted by Marco at some time back as well as a .gif of a cad drawing I did this morning putting down a more formal depiction.. (please see attached, click mouse on image if too small to read...)

    Over time I've seen more and more posts / inquiries / thoughts on the "volta bassa" design and we'd be pushing further in that direction with this build...

    So.. why the post.. well.. to solicit thoughts.. pointers.. ideas... gotcha's to look out for and general exploration of the subject...

    Thanks for any and all input!
    Attached Files
    Last edited by johnrbek; 01-28-2007, 12:44 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven

    Welcome John,

    You have come to the right place, for if nothing else there is a vast aray of builders and users here. I am sure that their opinions, suggestions, and heart felt help will be coming soon.

    As for myself, I love my Casa110. Good luck in whatever design you build.

    J W


    • #3
      Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven

      Welcome aboard, and let me be the first to say -- cool. It's going to be fun watching, and hopefully helping with your project.

      Of course you could just buy a Casa110, and you get the low dome design as standard.

      I have seen many construction photos of Naples ovens being build (almost all with the promise I would not publish them), I have seem them being built and have cooked in the ovens, and it sounds like a great undertaking.

      Honestly, I think there is so much in common between the two designs that the differences have been emphasized much too much. Still, wanting a low-dome oven is cool, and wanting to build one is great.

      I made a posting a while back on using a cut brick to set the oven dome angle, which will come in handy. You need to use a single full-high soldier to get the first course high enough, set your inward angle with a cut brick, and you need to support the upright bricks with mortar because of the outward thrust of the dome itself.

      Take photos and keep us in the loop the whole way through.

      I am in Naples in about two weeks, so I can Fed Ex you some tufa. Forno Bravo will have a number of exciting Naples-related announcements in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that.

      Pizza Ovens
      Outdoor Fireplaces


      • #4
        Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven


        Thanks for the encouragement and vote of confidence... We have a Sony HD video cam and a couple pretty good digital cams.. we're already recording the progress.. and I'll definitely submit once it gets interesting..

        I did see the cut brick to set the dome angle reference in my research here as well as as on the masonry oven heaters site in one of their workshops.. It would seem to me that it would be almost a requirement to get a nice clean transition between the soldiers and the dome chains. Thanks for your input clarifying this previously.

        I do hope that you'll be able to provide input / pointers based on the images of neopolitan oven construction photo's you've seen previously.... that would n't be a violation of your agreement would it ?? We'll be pushing the envelope with this one I think and I'd like to clarify some of the mystique that's associated with this design... maybe make it a more common build choice...

        By the way, when I add progress images and diagrams, should I start a new thread or just continue adding to this one?

        Not sure what tufa is, but have a good trip to Naples anyway...


        • #5
          Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven

          I like the idea of "de-mystifying" this oven -- all wood-fired ovens for that matter. I think in the era of YouTube, Wiki and Forums (hey, we were all Time Man of Year), that sharing ideas, learning how to do new things, and lifting the veil on otherwise hidden concepts is a powerful thing.

          Tufa is the local volcanic ash that they use to insulate the Naples ovens.

          Mt. Vesuvious has a lot to do with all of this. The water in Naples is very soft, as it goes through a huge natural brita filter to reach the water table, which helps make the pizza dough. The soil is also perfect for San Marzano tomatoes. Pozzolana, the active ingredient in Roman concrete that was capable of setting underwater (and lasts for 2,000 years) come from quarries near the Bay of Naples. Naples is the perfect pizza storm.

          Enjoy. We will look forward to photos, as well as video (I hope).
          Pizza Ovens
          Outdoor Fireplaces


          • #6
            Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven

            Good news, I now know that am not alone in wanting to build the Napolitan style low ceiling oven.

            Just like you did, I have too researched postings by pizzanapoletana and found his recipe (height = diameter / 3.4) for height/diameter ratio of 29.41%. When he posted it, I beleive that he actually had the 120cm diameter in mind. Now, if that ratio is used for smaller oven sizes it quickly becomes obvious that such low ceiling would not work.

            My thinking is that what is important in Napoletan design is the distance from floor to ceiling and shape somewhat. I beleive that this is needed in order to achieve the goal of having both top and bottom baked at the same time. If ceiling is lowered even more when reducing diameter this balance would be disturbed.

            Based on this thinking, the idea I have is too keep the door size, ceiling height and height of the vertical part of the dome the same as original 120cm oven size, but scale the diameter to more practical (for home use) 36" and go with the 3" wall thickness.

            I have attached drawings that I made during my research, and as you can see KiwiPete's oven is VERY close to what I came up with. It seems that he did not have any problems with his dome, which is the most radical (in the height/diameter ratio sense) that I was able to find on FornoBravo site.

            Now that you posted your calculations I can see that Volta Bassa standard ceiling height posted by James matches my calclulations of dome ceiling height exactly (which is 120cm/3.4 = 35.3cm = 13.9").

            Are you planning to use sheet metal door oppening (like visible on pictures posted by pizzanapoletana) or build it with bricks?


            • #7
              Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven


              Your conclusions regarding dimensions and ratio's seem pretty solid and I think my final dimensions will be similar to yours, but I I"ll be going with the 42" inside diameter... Here's what I'm thinking:

              42" inside diameter
              14" interior ceiling
              17" wide opening (half circle)
              9" high opening (half circle)

              The 14" interior height is 1/3 the diameter and the 9" high opening is about 62% of interior height. BTW, I think your right about Pizzanapoletana assuming the 120cm when plotting out his dimensions and ratios...

              Haven't decided on the opening yet... did notice that feature on the Neopolitan ovens I've seen photo's of... If I go with metal, I think I'll need to fabricate something out of stainless steel (I'm down in S Florida).. I would think just going with brick or some other attractive stone (for the outside arch) would be pretty easy...

              On another note, since the concrete truck is coming tomorrow and I need to go put some rebar in the right places to tie into the block walls (florida building code), I have a question about dimensions:

              In James dimensions here:

              .. he indicates the "vent landing" depth at 4".... I'm confused by that.. I was think of going with 8" duratech pipes and casting the transacton piece to meet up with Simpson's #9541 anchor plate which is 8" in diameter... My vent casting would then need to be at least as wide as my opening, 8", and just as deep if not more deep than 8" the duratech pipe will take.. Maybe 10-12" deep... so in my mind, the vent dimensions need to be about 10" x 12"...


              1. How can be vent landing depth be 4" if we need about 10-12" of depth there in the transition to meet our 8" pipe? Am I missing something?

              2. For the 42" oven is the 8" duratech enough diameter? I'll get into my design in more detail later, but I'll be routing the chimney pipe up over the top of my oven (at a 45 degr angle I suppose) so the chimney is literally in the back of the oven... My front of my oven will be under a covered patio, so I don't want smoke coming out of the front of the oven opening and into the patio... The chimney will progress 3' above my roof line, so I'm confident I"ll have a good long run to promote suction, but is the 8" enough?

              The vent landing question is an immediate concern as I think it affects the size of the stand and thus where I need to sink rebar today before the pour tomorrow..



              • #8
                Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven


                Good question. There are two potential landings in the front of your oven. There is the vent landing, where your vent is framed, with the oven landing beyond that.

                The vent landing walls can be 4" deep because the chimney itself can be set back from the front of the oven. It sits above the dome. Take a look at the Casa installation guide for some ideas on that. It goes up and back. If you would rather go straight up, and leave 10" for the vent beyond the front of the oven chamber (to allow for the anchor plate), that would work as well.

                Also, it's good to note that there are a number of vent designs. You can attach the vent to the upper oven enclosure and not use vent walls. If you pick that method, your vent landing and the vent itself are completely detached. They are not tied together in terms of size. The vent landing/oven landing can be any size you choose. This is both functional and decorative, but it is not tied to the size, or dimension of the vent.

                In terms of chimney size, you are in good shape with 8". We sell fully assembled ovens (the Modena with a 16.5" high dome) that is much larger than the oven you are building, that has an 8" (20cm) chimney adapter.

                Keep going!
                Pizza Ovens
                Outdoor Fireplaces


                • #9
                  Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven

                  Thanks for the detail James.. I think that clear's it up for me... I'm gonna have to give it some thought to see which way I go...

                  I'm still in the more mundane part of the build, but here's a progress update:

                  Neopolitan Pizza Oven Project Photo Gallery by John Bek at




                  • #10
                    Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven

                    Looks great. I think everyone would also appreciate it if you could post some of your better milestone photos in the FB Forum gallery. That would be really helpful.

                    Also, I would appreciate it if you could link for Forno Bravo on your Photo Gallery. That would help other builders find us. Thanks.
                    Last edited by james; 01-28-2007, 06:24 AM.
                    Pizza Ovens
                    Outdoor Fireplaces


                    • #11
                      Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven

                      Yep.. will do on the milestone pics... thought about that... links do die and it sucks 3 years later when you come along and you come up with a dead link..

                      Gonna go post a forno bravo link right now...
                      Last edited by johnrbek; 01-28-2007, 07:45 AM.


                      • #12
                        Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven

                        very interesting discussion -

                        when it comes to "true" pizza napoletana (be it ovens, preparation, ingredients, etc.) it seems that, in the final analysis, "true" exists only in the eye of the beholder.

                        for example, drizzling italian evo on the pizza prior to placing it in the oven, or using evo in general, is said to be traditional when it comes to neapolitan pizzas. yet da michele's, arguably the best and most traditional pizza napoletana in naples, doesn't use olive oil at all - they use soya bean oil. nor do they use buffalo mozzarella. is it possible to produce a "true" margherita without evo and buffalo mozzarella? apparently so unless one doubts the authenticity of da michele's pies.

                        and what about una pizzeria napoletana in new york, arguably the best authentic neapolitan pizza in the states? looking at available internet photos of their oven, it doesn't appear to be a low-domed "true/authentic" neapolitan oven (nor does the one used at da michele's for that matter) - of course i'm not certain that this is the case but there are a few photos out there in which the flames seem to be more consistent with a higher dome. should it in fact be the case, i.e., both places using higher-domed ovens similar to those offered by forno bravo, would it make their pizzas any less authentic?


                        • #13
                          Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven


                          With respect...

                          There's no debate that there is a Neapolitan style pizza oven, just as there is a very well defined Neapolitan style pizza. This has been documented both here on Forno Bravo, on, as well as other places such as VPN Americas (LLC) - The Verace Pizza Napoletana Association in the Americas. Do a little poking around on these sites or shoot me an email if you'd like to discuss details....

                          The purpose of my post is not to debate this restaurants oven or that restaurants recipe. Rather, my purpose is to document my journey building a Neapolitan style oven, to solicit advice from knowledgable builders here, and to shed some light on some of the design aspects, construction methods, and perhaps pitfalls of this type of oven that to date are somewhat of a closely held secret.

                          I'd like to keep the dialogue going, but I'd rather we stay on topic. If you'd like to debate these points or take it in another direction, I'd be happy to, but I'd prefer to do it under another thread or via email if that's okay...

                          Good Karma! Thanks!!



                          • #14
                            Low Dome Neapolitan Oven Update..

                            Well, it's been a couple months and I've finally finished the core of the dome. I will begin building the oven landing, flue, and chimney next.

                            Below are a few pics I threw together for those interested.

                            Happy to answer any questions.

                            Low Dome Neapolitan Oven Update - Dome Construction. Photo Gallery by John Bek at


                            • #15
                              Re: Feeling brave... a true Neopolitan Pizza Oven


                              Superb effort! It really does look splendid. All the cuts have clearly resulted in minimal mortar joints, which should auger well for a solid, stable structure.

                              I have a few questions though (apologies if I've missed the answers in previous posts, which I've been following with great interest).

                              You've used 3" thick firebrick for the dome, but how thick is the insulating buttress and from what is it made? Are the soldier course and floor also 3"?

                              You've mentioned elsewhere that the soldier course of the dome surrounds the floor, and both are laid on a 2" thickness of "insblok 19". What is the buttress sitting on?

                              How far does the aluminium foil (first photo) extend and what is its purpose?

                              Are those white lines polystyrene foam 'vanes'? You've mentioned that you used "150-200lbs of sand to 1 good shovel full of portland" for the sand mold - was water added (how much?) and was it difficult to knock out afterwards? I'm trying to visualise getting rid of a solid mass of concrete!

                              Can't wait to see the finished oven.

                              Cheers, Paul.