While I initially wasn’t planning to eat dinner, my family and I stopped in front of Matties Wood-Fired Mobile Pizza Oven. The smell of freshly baked dough and local ingredients wood-fired in an Italian-made oven stopped me behind a queue of five patrons.
I have often joined the community bandwagon and eaten at local CartHop Fresno events, so pausing to watch my personal-sized, 14-inch, wood-fired pizza bake was a no-brainer. Cost? $6-8.
Owner Matthew (Mattie) Wolcott was kneading dough into thin crusted personal pies. The menu included up to 12 varieties of Neapolitan-inspired pizzas (VIDEO). My first taste of Matties Wood-Fired Pizza was split with my twenty-something daughter, Brittany. We decided to share two pizzas: 1) Pizza Vera: caramelized onions, fresh thyme with Maytag blue cheese and Enzo olive oil; 2) Mattie’s pistachio pesto pizza with fresh mozzarella, San Marizano tomatoes, and bacon.
The pizzas came out piping hot. The mozzarella bubbled and the bacon’s aroma melded with the smokiness that one only gets when the BBQ cooks with almond and/or fruit wood. The freshly ground pistachio pesto was brilliant on the slightly charred, crispy crust, adding texture to the pizza. The tomatoes? Well, they were fresh, ripe, red, halved and full of flavor.
“We are pushing the pizza envelope,” Wolcott said. “We are pushing the pizza tradition, creating gourmet pizzas on wheels. This is good, clean, simple food. I’m just a simple person, using great flavors. Living in Valley I have access to incredible ingredients and I believe I am making incredible wood-fired pizzas.”
Mattie said his favorite pizza is the Vera. I concur. I’m a caramelized onion fan as well. That may be due to my own extensive time in the kitchen. The pizzas did not last long as we chowed down on the sweet and savory flavors.
Matties is gourmet pizza at its best. I must admit I longed for a glass of Paso’s Tablas Creek Estate Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley’s 2009 Martian Vineyard Grenache Rosé, Villa Creek’s Pink, Caliza Winery’s Pink or other Rosé alternatives.
However, the wine or beer option is only available for those who attend one of Matties weekly private parties. A bottle of iced water filled in just fine this time as June in the Central Valley heats up.
After working in the performing arts field for four years, Wolcott (43) taught elementary school for two years before becoming a consultant for a publishing company in the Bay Area. He served as a local rep. selling textbooks and later led a charter school for three years. However, by 2010, he grew dissatisfied with his role in education.
“I really didn’t believe in the way education is mapped out. It was hard to sell something I did not believe in,” Wolcott said. “My passion for education began to wane. I didn’t like the education philosophy.”
However, despite his career choices, he has always had a interest in cooking. In fact, Wolcott used to watch the 1980’s PBS show, Ciao Italia, with Mary Ann Esposito and still follows it when he can.
“I’ve stuck with Italian for most of my life and so I felt it was time to strike out on my own, sharing my passion: wood-fired pizzas. I just wanted to cook. So I worked with someone in the Bay Area and began catering for two summers while I still was in education. That became the impetus for me to get a food trailer and begin making pizzas on my own almost three years ago.
“I knew I wanted to use a wood-fired oven, but it is my dream to cook and entertain with an authentic Italian oven. I turned to the Mugnaini Inc. from Watsonville who have been importing wood-fired ovens from Italy for 20 years.”
Matties Wood-Fired Pizzas start with fresh pizza dough made from scratch using Giustos flour out of South SF because it was recommended by a cooking school in Healdsburg. And while fresh local ingredients most often make a tremendous difference in culinary presentation, Wolcott believes the wood-fired oven changes everything.
“There is an art to it,” he said. “No gas flame here. I wanted to bake pizzas in an old-world style in an oven that will dry the dough quickly and brown evenly. While the pizzas are baking in the oven, they must be rotated to evenly cook. We usually use almond but apple and peach wood is also being used this summer. I love the smell of the wood in each pizza.”
The wood-fired oven’s stone floor is kept at 750 degrees and takes about two hours to reach that temperature. The beauty of a wood-fired oven is that its high temperature ensures the crust will not be soggy and radiated heat quickly cooks the top ingredients. The average time for a pizza in the oven is about 2-2.5 minutes.
Matties factoid: Mattie Wolcott’s favorite pizza is caramelized onion and blue cheese with thyme. He says it is great with a salad. He also says pizza lovers might try a bubbly Lambrusco Le Grotte white wine on hot summer days.
However, when he was pressed, Wolcott said he was mostly a red wine drinker. His favorite is/was the Jordan Winery ’95 Cabernet. However, he went on to say that he is not a traditionalist to wine choices with food.
Wine pairing anyone?
Currently Wolcott is relying on referrals to build his pizza-loving clientele and has only used one postcard mailing. His team uses a trailer equipped with a Mugnaini Italian oven and an enclosed tent to create the pizzas. His goal is to add a second mobile oven on a 20-foot trailer with a full kitchen. He plans on joining the other food trucks at events, including weekends at Bella Frutta.
Matties Wood-Fired Mobile Pizza Oven is a wonderful food alternative for those stopping for lunch/dinner at local farmer’s markets, a family reunions/gatherings, graduation, weddings, corporate parties/events, bridal rehearsal parties, baby showers and graduation parties. It reminds me of homemade Italian pizza.
Mattie’s has set up for oven-fired pizzas in backyards for small parties to large events at wineries. All they need is about three-four hours of prep. time before each event and an approximate number of guests. Each event may have additional costs, but Wolcott said a flat $350 fee would cover about 25 guests with each additional pizza eater rate at $6-8 for a 2-4 hour event. Matties will serve up to five pizza varieties at an event.
On a typical day, Matties will wood-fire 100-200 pizzas but will increase those numbers for larger events. They have 12-15 different varieties.
Monday: Site views/visits to map out area for private parties. Food offerings include but are not limited to wood-fired pizza, salad, dessert (berry crisp) biscotti, pasta bars, dinner party appetizers, roasted egg plant, arugula goat cheese, butternut squash, etc.
Tuesday: River Park Farmer’s Market, 5:30 – 9 p.m.
Thursday: CartHop Fresno, Fulton Mall, 11 a.m. – 2 .pm.
Friday: CartHop Fresno, Eaton Plaza, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Friday: Downtown Clovis Farmer’s Market, 5:30 – 9 p.m.
Finally, in an effort to increase business, Matties needs a bigger trailer. He is hoping that through social media, referrals and a Kickstarter account , a new $40,000, 20-foot trailer can be built by the end of 2013. Wolcott said he has already contacted West Coast Trailers in Madera for the specs. on a new trailer.
“I couldn’t have built Matties Wood-Fired Pizzas without the help of an army of people,” Wolcott said. “So many people have come along side of me to encourage and put their time in by volunteering hours upon hours to help me build a viable business. The Valley and Fresno/Clovis have been very good to me; the community has been so supportive.”
So through the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media, referrals and repeat customers, Wolcott is hoping to grow his business just a little more with a Kickstarter account. He said he felt awkward to ask people for money–even weird. However, this is an avenue he felt his supporters might consider. So if you are inclined to foster a home-grown business, #BeABacker: Mattie needs a bigger home.
For more information on Matties Wood-Fired Mobile Pizza Oven, call Matthew Wolcott at 559.917.1969 or email him at mattiesmobileoven.com. He can also be reached through Twitter: @MattiesPizza.
For more information on the Fresno’s food truck growth, including Matties Wood-Fired Pizza, watch the video, CartHop: Moving Food Forward by CreativeFresno559.
Also be sure to read my Feb. 11, 2013, post: Bella Frutta hosts food truck hub each weekend.
NOTE: After struggling through illness during the winter, I am refocused and determined to restart TalesoftheCork on a weekly basis. Thank you for returning and a hearty cheers to you.
READERS: Have you tried the meals on wheels trucks or been to Bella Frutta? Leave a comment at the bottom of the article.
For more TalesoftheCork stories, scroll to the top of the menu bar or read The Grape Tray reopens in Fresno’s Opus I Center .