By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — While you watch, Michael McCurry gently presses handmade dough out on a wooden paddle, slathers pesto sauce on it, then sprinkles on cheese and a selection of delightful fresh accoutrements. He deftly lifts the long-handled paddle and slides it into the brick oven where a fire gently burns. About 90 seconds later, that uber-fresh personal pizza is yours.
“I always liked to cook,” said McCurry, 46. A bushy green basil plant sits on the table where he works quickly preparing a pizza. His daughter, Haley, 26, works right alongside him. The pair wears gentle smiles as they busily assemble, cook and serve their pizzas in McCurry’s mobile wood-fired pizza business called Dal-Forno. They set up on site, outside, to serve up pizzas and more.
Dal-Forno is Italian for ‘from the oven.’ The brick oven is definitely the centerpiece of McCurry’s mobile enterprise. Not only does it lend flavor to the food, it makes a focal point at an event.
“It’s almost like an enclosed fireplace,” said McCurry. “It’s probably like 1000 degrees on top. Probably 800 on the floor.” He generally uses hardwoods in his pizza oven, lately oak, cherry or apple.
“Walnut pops and cracks,” the Dal-Forno chef has discovered. It’s one of a number of things he’s learned on his business adventure. “I learn something every time we go.”
A 20-year employee of General Motors, McCurry decided to jump into the unique business in his off hours. After doing some research, and ramping up with some hands-on experience, the Anderson native took the plunge and invested in the mobile unit last year.
“I didn’t buy it to make money,” said McCurry. “I bought it to have fun, give back, teach my daughter something.”
The pizza maker didn’t set out to serve something everybody else has already got either. He’s taken pains to chase down specific, quality ingredients, and to develop his own recipes.
“I worked on my dough and sauce all summer,” said McCurry. “I try to make it a little nice.” Part of the key to that is fresh, local ingredients. He gets meat from Indiana’s own Gunthorp Farms, herbs from Aspire Farms, and specialty items from Indi’s Goose the Market. He puts his own spin on his tasty creations.
“Everybody seems to like the crust,” said McCurry. And while the three-meat Trifecta pizza is especially popular, this writer can attest to the delicious pesto pizza.
While the assembly and baking happen at events, all of the prep work takes place in a commissary kitchen, including making that fresh dough.
“Everything’s worked out really well,” said McCurry. “I’ve met some really nice people along the way, and a lot of people have helped me.”
McCurry’s not leaving his job at GM. He expects to cater events around Indiana two or three weekends a month, and some of those events benefit good causes. Giving back is a priority for McCurry. He makes a point of helping out with his oven from time to time – like his first foray out into the world with his new unit last December. He cooked up pizzas at an event for Women’s Alternatives.
“I wanted to drag my oven out the driveway somewhere. I went out and made pizzas for kids and Santa Claus.”
Look for Dal-Forno online or call 765-649-4765 for wood-fired pizzas and catering at events.
Like Nancy Elliott on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @ NancyElliott_HB, or call 640-4805.