Pizza On The Go: Resident Opens Mobile Pizzeria
Man operates 'Flirting With Fire,' a catering company that brings a wood-burning oven straight to its customers
A Mahwah resident with a passion for pizza decided the best way to share his love with others is to bring it directly to them. This spring, John Conklin celebrated the one-year anniversary of Flirting With Fire, a mobile pizza catering company he founded last April.
His passion for pizza began eight years ago, he said, when he and his wife were remodeling the backyard of their Fardale home. “I built a brick oven in my backyard, and I just fell in love with it,” he said.
As an aggregate salesman who has worked in the construction industry for 35 years, Conklin said it took him a lot of time to learn the tricks of the pizza-making trade. “I researched everything about it,” he said. “I tried different recipes for every kind of pizza there is.”
In 2006, Conklin joined pizzamaking.com, an online forum for people who love to make pizza. Members swap stories and recipes, ask for advice, and share stories about their pizza start up ventures.
After trying out recipes in his outdoor oven, Conklin settled on the Neapolitan style – which has a soft crust and which Conklin said is unlike most pizza pies you can buy at traditional pizzerias – as his favorite.
“I just loved it, and I wanted to figure out a way to share it with people,” he said. “I learned that mobile pizza units are very popular on the West Coast, because they can operate them all year round. I thought it’d be a great idea to start a business like that here, so I bought a mobile wood-burning oven.”
Last year, Conklin started catering private parties and events. He said his service is “as much about the great pizza as it is about the experience.” The mobile unit pulls into a party, and sets up underneath a tent. Conklin and his crew serve pizza buffet style and make pizzas to order so “guests can watch their pizzas being made. They love that.”
The mobile oven heats up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, and the Neapolitan style pizza cooks in 90 seconds, so guests don’t need to wait long before enjoying their pies.
“I make an extremely authentic Italian pie,” Conklin, who is not of Italian decent and is still planning his first trip to the country, said. “I import all of my ingredients from Italy. These pies are 12 inches apiece, and you get a whole pie. You can’t eat a slice of this stuff, that’s not how it works.”
Conklin also boasts a “your home, my oven” service style in which he prepares everything so that hosts do not need to cook for their parties. “It’s nice because it’s always a party atmosphere, so it’s always fun. I do all of the cooking, and I do it all there, so hosts don’t need to worry about it, and their guests are entertained. The atmosphere is a big part of it.”
Though Conklin said his dream is to one day open a Neapolitan pizzeria that doesn’t follow him home on the back of his truck, for now he is still working in the construction industry, and only operating Flirting With Fire on weekends.
“Even part time, it’s a tremendous amount of work. But I do it because I love it, and I want to share this experience with people,” he said. “I’m just a normal guy who loves pizza.”