Scott Volpe knows his way around an 800-degree pizza oven.
At Fiamme Pizza, he gently cuts the dough into a circle, tosses it with red sauce, sprinkles with shredded mozzarella and scoops up pepperoni.
“Mostly everything is made in-house,” he said. “The only thing we don’t do is meat. We don’t process pepperoni, but other than that we pretty much make everything in house.”
At Fiamme, which is Italian for “flame,” the Volpe is the complete package. He works as a manager, owner, dishwasher, waiter and pizza maker.
He founded the company a decade ago as a mobile pizza trailer. Six years ago, he moved into a brick-and-mortar building.
Volpe preps and partially bakes four 18-inch pizzas each morning, prepping the lunch crowd.
The Fulpi divides the pizza into sections, where part will be a white pizza; Another, pepperoni. Still another, Grandma’s style. This is a recipe born in Brooklyn that Volpe has refined, at least for the tastes of Tucson.
Of course, there are plenty of other more exotic pizzas on the menu, such as prosciutto e arugula, with mozzarella, prosciutto and arugula; or the carne, which includes mozzarella, Calabrese salami, fennel sausage, and pancetta. Both are made with red sauce.
And then there’s the premium: anchovies, Calabrese salami, Calabrian chili, chicken, bacon, ricotta, sausage, sopressata, farmer’s market vegetables, pepperoni, eggs, pine nuts and pesto.
Some magic happens in a narrow hall past a small seating area in the kitchen. This morning, Aaron Oleg crafts the real secret to Fiam Pizza’s success: the crust.
“The dough we make is what people come for,” said Volpe. “It’s what we know most about it, it’s not the sauce, it’s not the cheese. It’s right here.”
Uhlig starts his day at 8 a.m. wearing a white apron, stands behind a stainless steel counter and works. In front of him is a fairly large plastic dough bowl, which would fit in the kitchen. He cuts off a piece, weighs it (looking for 600 grams), adds some, takes some. Then he pats it into a soft ball and tosses it into the air, forming a flat circle. It stacks neatly alongside its siblings until it’s time to bake the pizza. Uhlig had other restaurant jobs, but this one is particularly satisfying. He said he loves it, especially when he sees people enjoying their pizza.
“That’s why we’re here,” he said, “to make people happy.”
“Most people are happy when you put pizza in front of them,” said Volpi.
“You have to enjoy what you are doing,” Oleg added.
A wood-fired oven keeps its temperature overnight, Volpe said, so it always runs anywhere between 700 and 850 degrees. It burns in a cord of wood every two weeks, depending on the number of orders.
“It stays hot because we use it every day,” he said. “This helps us save wood.”
He goes through about 100 pounds of flour a day. He sells about 150 to 200 pizzas a day. Surprisingly, Mondays are the busiest because it’s half price Margarita pizza day. Pizza sales range from 100 on a slow day to 300.
“You have to have a passion for it,” Volpe said of his strict daily schedule. “It takes a certain kind of person; no one is going to wake up and say, ‘I want to open a restaurant.’ It’s something I kind of fell into. I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to be a chef; I just worked at several restaurants and just decided that’s what I wanted.” do, and I really found my passion. If you don’t have that, you probably wouldn’t make it as a chef.”
It really is when Volpe sees his patrons feasting on his handiwork that he understands why he does what he does.
“It helps kindle passion and drive,” he said. “She makes everything so good. That final product, the pizza that comes out of the oven, and goes to the table. I think that’s the best feeling there.”
4706 E. Sunrise Rd