The newest wood-fired pizzas to be had in the East Bay are being cooked in an oven mounted on the bed of a pickup truck, and they can only be found on select dates outside of a couple of Berkeley wineries.
The outfit is called Urelio's Pizza, and it's the project of former Chez Panisse line cook Sam Ciccarelli. Using only naturally leavened dough that he makes by hand and local ingredients, Ciccarelli is slinging pies out of his pickup truck pizza oven — and as the Chronicle reports, this is a pizzaiolo who has both the purism of Una Pizza Napoletana in his sights, as well as the many styles of pizza one can find up and down the California coast.
Urelio's began as a simple operation in Ciccarelli's Oakland driveway, and it expanded in recent months to become a full-fledged pop-up, serving four or five pizza options in the parking lot of Broc Cellars in Berkeley on certain Sundays.
Ciccarelli tells the Chronicle, "The pandemic brought a lot of questions of what matters to me the most. At the end of the day, doing something that I really enjoy making and opening a business and raising a family one day, it would be pizza. I just really love pizza."
That passion led to Ciccarelli conceiving of his pizza truck — a humble, small-scale version of Del Popolo's modified shipping-container mobile kitchen that debuted a decade ago. Ciccarelli had help from his friend Heco, he says in an Instagram post.
"The core of the oven was cast in Italy and shipped to the States," Ciccarelli writes. "We mounted it to the back of the truck and then built the rest from there. We’d work our other jobs during the day and spend our nights with headlamps on building the oven."
He typically offers a traditional Margherita pie, as well as a marinara pie, featuring just his homemade tomato sauce — both nods to the traditional Neapolitan pies that one used to find at Una Pizza Napoletana, which decamped back to New York a few years ago.
There will also be a vegetarian option, a Neapolitan three-cheese option, and a meat special. The latter slot has included a pie with salsiccia, one with Niman Ranch soppressata, as well as a mortadella pie with fine herbes.
While Ciccarelli eventually wants a brick-and-mortar pizzeria, he's taking the pop-up route for now — and this route, during the pandemic, worked out just fine for Oakland taco outfit Tacos El Último Baile, which opened its first brick-and-mortar in Fruitvale last fall.
The next appearances of Urelio's will be at Broc Cellars (1300 Fifth Street) this Sunday, March 5, from noon to 4 p.m., and a week later down the street at Donkey & Goat Winery (1340 Fifth Street) from noon to 5 p.m.
Follow Urelio's on Instagram for more updates.