As the owner of mobile pizzeria Pizza 900, Ari Ebneyousef is always on the road, rumbling from one event to another, lugging a wood-fired brick oven that weighs nearly 2 tons. Yet his concept is simple: pizza cooked in less than 90 seconds, thanks to a 900-degree oven, and as great as you've ever tasted it.
"We've taken the same dough, the same tomato sauce and same cheese and cooked it in [a gas oven], so it tastes good, but when cooked with wood fire, it creates a different flavor," he says. "When you cook it at such a high temperature, it captures the flavors of the ingredients," making a "night-and-day difference."
What he calls the "love business" is just a 2.5-year-old operation. Born in Tehran, Ebneyousef remembers being fond of pizza as early as age 6. But after making his first stop in Italy in 2003, he combined his former event-catering business—Persiano's, which began in his garage—with his love for authentic Italian pies.
"I kind of figured, 'What can I do to introduce something that no one had done out here?' Which was doing the catering, but with pizza," he says. "So we reached out to some people, and everybody thought I was crazy."
During a week of eight-to-10-hour days, Ebneyousef trained for what would become his newest operation. There is a lot of love given to this new concept. "You want [every ingredient] to be able to stand out by itself, so we don't overload the pizzas," he says.
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Despite a lack of Internet presence, Pizza 900 is getting calls across Southern California. Preparations for an event start with the gathering of fresh, seasonally organic ingredients the day before, then spending 12 to 16 hours at the event site the day of. "You're realistically taking a whole restaurant to someone's house," he says. "You bring the refrigerator, prep table. It takes two trips to do what we do. One takes the whole kitchen, one tows the oven."
What he enjoys best, Ebneyousef says, is interacting with people. After the first hour of service is over, guests are invited to put on aprons, open the dough and choose their own toppings. "A lot of people think it is primarily good for kids, but adults love the whole concept, too," he says. "We'll go anywhere, any time"—as long as his trailer is eligible to park there. "We're only as good as our last party."
One could excuse Ebneyousef if he didn't eat pizza anymore, but the opposite is true. "Every city I go to, I try to have different types of pizza. I went to Argentina because I know they had good pizzas—Costa Rica, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Iran."
He adds, "I just had pizza last night."