The brainchild of Tim West and Penny Lochlead, Wightwood Pizzas are freshly cooked to perfection in 90 seconds in a traditional wood-fired clay oven, in a beautifully restored vintage Citreon H van. The novelty value is right up there with the wonderful smell of the wood clay oven, the fresh ingredients lingering in the air and the spectacle of hand-shaped dough being made right before your eyes.
The first time the couple set upon a mobile pizza van was while travelling in the South of France. “It was love at first sight – we were totally charmed by the old Citreon H vans. They are so quirky and cute looking. We knew right then what a brilliant idea it was for the Isle of Wight”, explains Penny, a caterer and chef for over twenty years. Her husband Tim trained as a pastry chef, before becoming a blacksmith, so he is fully conversant with managing contained fires safely. “We knew we wanted a wood-fired oven to cook the pizzas to have that tasty chargrilled flavour – it’s the wood that makes it taste so good”, says Tim.
The couple purchased their van in France, then had it professionally converted in Britain to comply with health and safety regulations. Inside the Citreon are two sizable fridges, a sink, work surfaces and the clay oven. “It uses oak kiln dried wood and takes about an hour to reach the perfect temperature to cook pizzas”, explains Penny.
The couple prepare all their food on board using as much fresh local produce as possible and offer a mouth-watering range of pizzas, from the typical crowd pleasers such as the margherita and ham and mushroom, through to goats cheese, caramelised onion and pine nuts, pepperoni, olives and chilli oil and anchovies and roasted aubergines. Many might think working in a confined space a challenge churning out up to 40 pizzas an hour, but Penny and Tim contend with its practical uses. “Everything is there in the kitchen, so very easily accessible, and all within arms-length”, muses Tim.
Since opening Wightwood Pizzas, Penny and Tim have been in high demand, “We’re doing everything from campsites, private parties, weddings, children’s parties where you can make your own pizza to christenings, fetes, sporting events – you name it; we can bring our pizzas to any venue, large or small”, says Penny.
And they don't just do pizza. Fantastic antipasti, Mediterranean salads and homemade desserts can also be provided.
Beyond travelling around the Isle of Wight, they will venture off-Island to the New Forest. There’s even an honesty box to pay for your pizza yourself. “There is a certain amount of trust and we’re often met with an incredulous look”, admits Penny. “But it’s been working really well, and everyone seems to love the ethos”. It also means the couple can ditch the rubber gloves when handling customers’ money and focus on making their delicious pizzas.
You can find Wightwood Pizzas at different venues across the West Wight during the week from April to September, follow them on Facebook to find out where they will be each evening.