Jon Darsky spent years in San Francisco restaurants baking Neapolitan-style pizzas—thin crusts topped with fresh salted tomatoes and milky fior di latte mozzarella—in old-school specialty wood-fired ovens. In 2010 he began looking around for a place of his own but couldn’t find the right piece of real estate. After a trip to Austin, Texas, a hotbed of mobile street vendors, he scrapped the idea of a brick-and-mortar pizzeria and decided to put his oven on wheels.
Two years later, his new business is finally ready to roll. It isn’t the average food truck stuffed inside an old step van, and not just because there’s smoke (intentionally) pouring out of the rooftop. Darsky’s creation is a full-on mobile pizzeria. Customers place their orders with a waiter and then watch through the truck’s glass-plated passenger side as Darsky and a prep cook make pizzas over a giant fire in the 5,000-pound brick oven.
Darsky had a lot more experience making pizzas than he did making the equipment needed to cook them, so building an open kitchen in a truck wasn’t easy. He started out with a brand-new handmade Italian oven and sketched out an initial design for the truck with CAD software. He then worked with a team of engineers and fabricators to refine the design, putting the oven inside a used 20-foot shipping container and mounting it on a Freightliner M2 106 bobtail truck frame.
He also had to come up with a way to dampen vibrations from driving that could crack the oven’s silicon dioxide and aluminum oxide bricks. At first he wanted to float the oven and its 1,500-pound steel pedestal on an airbag cushion, but that would have been too high to fit inside the container. Now the entire container sits on a self-leveling air suspension system that looks like a stack of inflatable golf-cart tires.
Unlike most food trucks, which cook on propane, Darsky’s oven burns almond and oak logs, at a sweltering 800ºF. “Part of cooking this kind of pizza is about building a really big flame,” Darsky says. “It would be great to go from place to place with a raging fire. But that would be stupid and unsafe.” Instead he lights the oven when he gets to his destination. Fortunately, the oven walls’ 4.3 inches of fireproof brick retain heat for days, so Darsky can preheat the oven before he leaves. Then he extinguishes the flame, closes the oven up safely, and heads out on the road.
The incredible innovations, like drone swarms and perpetual flight, bringing aviation into the world of tomorrow. Plus: today's greatest sci-fi writers predict the future, the science behind the summer's biggest blockbusters, a Doctor Who-themed DIY 'bot, the organs you can do without, and much more.