The People's Tribune

‘Aloha Wood Fired Pizza’ Bringing Neapolitan Style Pies to Bowling Green

Donna and Greg Ellison stand at the back end of their new endeavor, ‘Aloha Wood Fired Pizza’ behind 25 N. Main Street in Bowling Green.

Locals and visitors to the square in Bowling Green might have noticed a custom-made trailer behind the brick building on the corner of 25 North Main.

Inside, you’ll find Greg and Donna Ellison behind a wood-fired oven burning around 800 degrees or higher.

They both grew up in Pike County and raised a family here. It’s their home, and both fondly remember visiting all the establishments on the square with their parents. Greg grew up not far from the square while Donna lived on the family farm outside of Eolia.

Now early in their retirement, they want to do something to help support the growing downtown environment.

Greg retired from a career with Ameren, while Donna retired as a social worker.

So how is it that two people with no experience in the restaurant industry found themselves slinging pies?

It was their love for the community along with making their specialty Neapolitan style pizzas for their family that led to the opening of Aloha Pizza.

“We retired and decided we still had a few good years left,” Greg joked. “This was basically my idea I think – I drug her along with me. I used to always make pizza at home.” He told the Tribune how years ago, he bought a stone fireplace and put a flat rock from a creek in it. “I thought I was cooking on stone then!”

He eventually evolved to the wood-fired oven in the trailer.

Aloha Pizza is set to open this weekend, April 16, and will be open Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 3 to 8 pm. 

Although the trailer’s home base is behind their building, the couple plans to take advantage of their mobility by catering to events – whether those are parties, weddings, or festivals.

The finished trailer is impressive for a retired couple with no prior restaurant experience especially considering the amount of work they put into it. Unlike many food trailers, theirs wasn’t originally made for food service. The person Greg bought it from, used it as a live-in trailer while on the road.

Currently, the food trailer offers shelves for customers to stand and enjoy their fresh hickory-fired pizza while chatting with Greg, Donna, and possibly local ‘celebrity’ chefs. Greg says they’re considering putting out more seating at the home location in the future.

Greg transformed it into a functional kitchen that complies with health codes. He also built up the backend to house the heavy, Italian-made wood-burning stove.

Before beginning, the Ellison’s did some extensive research – from going traveling and trying out various types of pizza to learning the best way to stretch the dough and move the fully topped pies from the peel to the oven.

The peel is the wooden or metal paddle used in the process.

The two work as a team with Donna preparing the dough and toppings and Greg loading it into the oven and cooking them.

It sounds like a simple task, but they have learned there’s a critical point that many people forget about.

The dough wants to stick to whatever surface it’s on. “If she doesn’t prepare them quick enough,” Greg explained. “When I go to slide it into the oven, the topping goes instead.”

But they’ve had fun tackling the venture together since making the decision this past December.

“Figuring out everything we need to do, has been one of the biggest obstacles,” Donna explained. “You don’t think about all the licenses and other things you’re going to need. We want to travel and enjoy retirement,” she continued. “This is something where we don’t have to be open all the time. We can work around.”

The food trailer allows them the freedom to travel and offer something unique to the area.

“These places are starting to pop up more in the city and we thought, why can’t Bowling Green have one,” Greg added.

Greg and Donna are both excited and a little nervous about the endeavor.

“The closer it gets, the more you start understanding that this is for real,” Greg said. “We had our inspection and delivery today, so there’s no turning back.”

The nervousness stems from this being their first foray into the food industry, but they’re hoping to keep it fun with pizzas of the month and possibly local ‘celebrity’ cooks for the night.

“We want to keep it as stress-free as possible,” Donna added.  

While the wood-fired Neapolitan pizza takes center stage, Greg says the ingredients are every bit as important. “Everything is fresh, and we get as much as we can local.”

In true Neapolitan pizza style, the pies come in 12-to-14-inch sizes with various toppings.

One of Aloha’s many menu items testing out in the Italian made wood-fire oven.

But if you want one, you will have to get there quickly. Supplies will be limited.

“Being as we’re a food trailer, we won’t be able to stock up with an endless supply of pizza,” Greg explained.

To start out, they plan on preparing only 45 pizzas a day.

Once those are gone, they will close down and start on the next day’s batch. “We don’t want to make too much and end up throwing it away.”

After they perfect the process and get a better estimate of how many pizzas they’ll need, they’re considering adding lunch to the menu.

As of right now, the Aloha trailer has three shelve areas for customers who want to eat the pizza fresh out of the oven or chat with others. Greg and Donna are also considering adding more along the side of their building at 25 North Main and possibly a seating area behind the building.

So, what exactly makes Neapolitan pizza different?

As the name suggests, the pizza originated in Naples, Italy. They feature simple and fresh ingredients which are cooked quickly at high temperatures. Greg explained that due to the high temperature, each pizza will only take a couple of minutes before its finished.

He achieves temperatures of around 600 to 800 degrees by building the fire in the middle of the oven using hickory wood. After heating up the stone plates, he moves the coals to the side which sends the flames and heat rolling over the top of the oven.

According to Greg, although the oven can get to temperatures of 1,000 degrees, ideally the plates will be around 600 with the top around 800.

One of the defining features of the Neapolitan style pizza is the thin crust with a light, puffy edge. The dough often bubbles up and chars in spots; however, it’s not burnt. The charring is simply a side effect of the extreme temperature and the wood-fired oven.

“The perfect Neapolitan style is going to look charred on top and bottom,” Greg continued. “It’s crunchy on the outside and light and airy on the inside.”

To get what Greg considers the perfect pizza, he turns them halfway, so they cook evenly and lifts them near the end to melt the cheese thoroughly.

Toppings?

Expect the classics such as cheese and pepperoni along with something for vegetarians, but also expect some experimental pies such as The Mahalo. They think it will be a hit with Pike County residents.

“We start with the fresh puffy textured Neapolitan crust, topped with some Sweet Baby Rays barbecue sauce slathered on top.” They then pile on shredded mozzarella, smoked chicken breast, black olives, sweet red onion, spices, and crispy, bacon.

Their “Big Kahuna” offers a textured aromatic tomato sauce, heavy shredded mozzarella, green peppers, sweet red onion, mushrooms, black olives, pepperoni, and spicy Italian sausage.

For the Ellison’s, opening the food trailer in the downtown wasn’t entirely about making a unique pizza. They wanted to contribute to the downtown they grew up in and love.

“We’re not in this to get rich,” they explained. “We’re just in it to give a little back. Everybody has done the best they can, and we would hate to see this part of town go downhill.”

Despite watching businesses move towards the other end of town, they said they wanted to help keep the downtown alive.

“There’s still life left in the downtown, and if we can do a little bit to help it out, then we’re more than happy. There have already been some other people here doing the same thing – opening up new shops. If we can get more people active and involved, then I think it would be all for the better for Bowling Green and the square.”

One other question the Ellison’s are frequently asked is why the name, Aloha Pizza if they’re making Sicilian style pizza?

The name is a tribute to Greg’s best friend growing up.

They went to college together and his friend eventually moved away to work for Maui Jim sunglasses.

The two stayed close despite the distance and whenever he visited, he always used the Hawaiian greeting. Unfortunately, in December, his friend passed away unexpectedly. The name became a way to memorialize his supportive nature.

“It’s different,” Greg said. “We didn’t want to use our name, and this also gave us a basis for naming all the different pizzas.”

Although Greg is aware of the debate behind Hawaiian-style pizza with its pineapples and ham topping. He’s not opposed to offering it, eventually.

“Each month, we’re going to try a different pizza of the month,” they agreed. “We’re sticking to the basics right now, but we’re open to suggestions.”Find out more about this exciting new business by visiting their Facebook at www.facebook.com/Aloha-Wood-Fired-Pizza page or calling 573-721-7868

Comments are closed

Text Description

Text Description

Text Description

Log in | 2017 The People's Tribune