Medieval brick ovens can be found throughout Europe, often with little variation from the original Roman round, domed oven chamber and front vent design. In northern Europe the ovens tended to be larger and the properly of the local Lord—who owned both the oven and the heat inside it, and would charge the serfs for baking their bread. In Italy, where the feudal system took a less firm grip, the ovens tended to be owned by individual families and were smaller—which is the foundation for Italy's modern pizza oven industry. Round ovens built from brick, and even local stone, have been built in Italy seemingly forever. Virtually every Tuscan farmhouse has, or had, an original brick or stone oven, and many are still being used today.
The different cooking requirements between a commercial bakery and pizzeria or homeowner created a split in brick oven design in the 18th century. The French, or Scottish, oven, also known as a White Oven, features a low barrel vault, rectangular footprint and separate firing chamber below the cooking chamber. These ovens are efficient at cooking large volumes of bread, and are still used throughout Europe.
Prefabricated ovens and stoves were created in Victorian England during the industrial revolution, and signaled the use of metal for oven construction—a development that nearly killed the refractory oven for home use.
The prefabricated refractory pizza oven was created in Italy around the turn of the century, and it took off in Italy in the 1970s, with a renaissance of brick oven cooking. Following the modernization of Italy in the aftermath of the second world war, and acceptance of the electric "American Oven", a large number of families began rediscovering the pleasure of wood-fired cooking and the recipes and techniques that their grandparents passed down to them.
The next development in pizza oven design appeared in the 1990s, with the creation of modern refractory and insulating materials. These high-tech composites reduce oven heat-up time from 2-3 hours to about 45 minutes and have excellent heat holding characteristics.
The final step in the evolution came with the mainstream use of modern ceramic insulation, which made pizza oven installation faster, easier and less expensive that ever before. Today, every Forno Bravo comes with complete, 100% ceramic insulation.
For the home-owner and restaurant owner, whether you are in the U.S., Britain, Europe or Asia, these wonderful ovens give you the opportunity to enjoy one of the finest cooking experiences in the world.