Luisa’s Well-Traveled, Well-Used Brick Oven

The story behind the restaurant's vintage chamber
PETER TAYLOR
The Milano pizza with artichoke hearts, prosciutto, mushrooms, and black olives

The number above the kitchen window now reads 1,167,576, but that will change this Saturday night, as it changes every Saturday night, after Luisa’s Brick Oven Pizza owner Jeff Russell counts the tickets from the week, adding up the number of times his grand oven has made a pizza. Each week, the number jumps by about 1,000. Each week, the oven asks for more. This oven, it’s a Charlotte treasure. Back in 1991, an Italian named Luisa Land was living in Charlotte and unsatisfied with the pizza situation here. So she ordered a Vilaro brick oven from her hometown of Milan and had it delivered in about 16 pieces. Land turned the restaurant over to Russell eight years ago. But the oven, it stayed. It burns both gas and wood. The gas runs all day and heats the oven to 500 degrees. The hickory wood is lit just before the restaurant opens and adds another 250-300 degrees. At 800 degrees, it takes about five minutes to make a pizza. That’s five minutes per 1,167,576 pizzas made over nearly a quarter-century at Luisa’s (1730 Abbey Place, 704-522-8782), where the saying goes, “the difference is in the oven.” 

Categories: Food + Drink, Restaurants & Food