grimaldi's, coal-fired
The coal-fired oven at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria provides pizzas with a unique flavor that cannot be matched.

Coal-burning ovens are becoming hot commodities again for pizza makers. Coal-fired ovens have a long history with pizza makers in the US, as New York City was the birthplace of pizza. Opened in 1905 in New York City, Lombardi's was the first pizzeria in the country, and it used a coal-fired oven.

One of the main differences between coal and wood comes from the intense heat that a coal fire generates. Coal provides about 13,000 BTUs of heat per pound, while wood provides about 6,500 BTUs per pound. Oven temperatures in a coal-fired oven exceed 900 degrees, which creates characteristic char to the crust. In addition the higher heat, this method produces a crispier crust.

Founded in New York City, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria offers more than 100 years of pizza-making traditions. Weighing 25 tons and heated by 100 pounds of coal per day, the oven heats up to 1200 degrees. The pizza place purchases special cleaner-burning coal from Pennsylvania called anthracite. It has the highest carbon content, the fewest impurities and the highest calorific content of all types of coal.

whipped ricotta, pizza
The Pepperoni and Whipped Ricotta pizza from Coalfire in Chicago is a favorite among customers. Photo via Yelp

At Chicago’s Coalfire, which was named as one of the top 10 pizza places in America last year by The Daily Meal, serves a thin crust, coal-forged pizza that emerges slightly charred and bubbly from an 800-degree oven fueled by clean burning coal. Their 14-inch pizzas come in 16 flavors, not including build-your-own combinations.

Here are some of the more interesting pizzas at Coalfire:

  • Honey & Salami $17 - Mozzarella, basil, spicy salami, honey
  • Crimini $17 - Mozzarella, mushroom, garlic, kale, smoked mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil
  • Guanciale $18 - Rosemary cream, mozzarella, potato, guanciale (Italian cured meat)

For dessert, Coalfire also sells a variety of rotating flavors of cupcakes baked by local bakery Chicago Cupcake. The cupcakes, which sell for $4.5 apiece, add a sweet touch to the overall dining experience.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, famous for coal-fired brick oven pizzas and calzones, opened its newest location in 2015 in Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kansas. Grimaldi’s Pizzeria occupies a 4,000-square-foot space that includes a patio and private event dining.

“Kansas has been on our target map for several years and the Prairiefire location in Overland Park, was truly a perfect match for our concept,” says Joe Ciolli, chief executive officer of Grimaldi's Pizzeria.

Grimaldi’s pizzeria has shown tremendous growth in the past year and has promised to continue their expansion plans. In 2015, the company was named one of the top 50 fastest growing restaurant groups. Grimaldi’s Pizzeria currently has 37 locations across the US, including Texas, Nevada, Idaho, Louisiana, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, California, South Carolina and its flagship stores in New York City.

In the world of pizza, Grimaldi’s is an institution that has garnered more awards than any other pizzeria in the country, according to its owners, with more celebrity sightings than most 5-star restaurants. Using only the freshest ingredients, a secret recipe pizza sauce, handmade mozzarella cheese and dough, Grimaldi’s serves traditional pizza (as it began in Naples, Italy) in an upscale yet casual, family oriented pizzeria.

Designed and built by hand, the coal-fired oven at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria delivers a unique flavor and consistency that is just not possible from wood or gas ovens. The intense heat of the oven evenly bakes the pies to create Grimaldi’s famous crispy and smoky thin crust that Zagat has voted one of America’s best pizzas, year after year.

It has been said that the secret to true New York-style pizza is the water. Grimaldi’s believes that too, going to great lengths to keep the integrity of the water used in the Brooklyn pizzeria by hiring a chemist to analyze and recreate the mineral content and exact composition of the water to ensure the dough tastes the same in Kansas and every other Grimaldi’s location across the country.