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  • Rustic Crust's mobile pizza truck which cooks up free samples of Rustic Crust's products from a wood-fired oven
  • Rustic Crust founder Brad Sterl on top of his company mobile pizza truck, which offers samples of their all-natural crusts, sauces, and flat breads hot off a wood-fired oven.
  • Staff photo by Bruce Preston

    Dan Snyder’s removes a pizza from the oven at the Concord Market Days in Concord.

  • Staff photo by Bruce Preston

    Dan Snyder’s removes a pizza from the oven at the Concord Market Days in Concord.

  • Staff photo by Bruce Preston

    Dan Snyder’s wife, Christine, right, and daughter, Joann, 14, get pizzas ready for the oven at the Concord Market Days in Concord.

  • Staff photo by Bruce Preston

    Touched by Fire wood fired pizza had a booth set up at the Concord Market Days and Music festival in Concord.

  • Staff photo by Bruce Preston

    Dan Snyder’s removes a pizza from the oven at the Concord Market Days in Concord.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hot dough to go

HOLLIS – Dan and Christine Snyder are putting a whole new spin on “hot wheels.”

With their new, traveling, wood-fired pizza business called Touched By Fire, that runs self-contained off the end of a 10-foot trailer, the Snyders bring a unique mobile culinary experience to fairs, festivals and private functions around the Granite State.

“We’re taking some pride in the fact that we’re kind of pioneering this business, at least taking it to this extent,” Dan Snyder, branch manager of Nashua’s Merrimack County Savings Bank, said, explaining his idea behind a portable pizza oven business.

“It’s kind of an interesting thing,” Snyder said. “First and foremost, it’s my love and passion for cooking Italian, specifically pizza. I’ve been doing it since I was 10 or 12 years old.

“It’s also the vast appeal for pizza. It’s neither gender, race nor age specific, practically everyone loves pizza … Also coupled with thinking about the newly emerging interest of Americans and a natural approach to things. A portable wood-fired oven has been around since the Middle Ages. That kind of conjures up some things of when life was a little simpler. We’re not talking about a lot of preservatives and additive. It really kind of has its own romance, if you will.”

Mobile food trucks are becoming increasingly popular around the U.S., but wood-fired-oven pizza trucks are relatively new, Snyder said.

“The phenomenon is really in its infancy in this country,” Snyder said. “In terms of the mobile aspect, the wood-fired oven conjures up that old-fashioned and charming way to produce pizza and bread. It can’t be beat for taste, quality and public appeal.”

Snyder’s operation, which officially started in February, came to fruition after his 10-foot Maxey Trailer, built with a custom- fitted Forno Bravo Italian wood-fired oven in Fort Collins, Colo., was shipped to New Hampshire.

Since then, Snyder’s mobile oven has made appearances at two public events in New Hampshire, and a couple of private ones, with six more on the schedule.

“Part of our appeal with people, we have this showcase imported Italian wood-fired oven that people can watch their food being baked and it only takes two minutes or less from oven to plate.”

When Touched By Fire attends events, they cart their Italian oven, a commercial refrigeration unit and pizza prep table, plus tubs of fresh ingredients, wherever they go. Pizza dough and sauce are made according to Snyder’s recipe at Ciao’s Pizza in Nashua and Amherst, and dishes are taken there for washing when the day is done.

Touched By Fire offers pizza lovers 8-inch personal pies made to order with locally grown toppings when available. Among the standard pepperoni and cheeses are breakfast pizzas of bacon and egg or sausage, plus a dessert s’mores pizza of crumbled graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate topping.

Snyder also offers custom calzones, and is planning on adding homemade pretzels to the menu soon.

The wood-fired oven burns apple wood to heat up to 800-900 degrees on a 43-inch hearth. With the ability to cook 14 pizzas at one time, Snyder said he can produce about 100 pizzas an hour if needed.

Sometimes the smell alone attracts hordes of people to Snyder’s truck, he said.

“The smell of the wood-burning oven really conjures up memories of simpler times, and it whets the appetite for well-cooked, unique and delicious pizza when you have the sweet aroma of apple wood wafting through the crowd.”

That’s certainly one of the draws of having a mobile wood-fired oven, the ability to bring the tastes and smells of everyone’s favorite wood-fired pizza right to their doorstep, or local park.

But there are a number of reasons Snyder said his mobile wood-fired oven business is the way to go.

It’s not your average pizza truck with trays of lukewarm slices.

“All of our product is prepared fresh to order and cooked right in front of you in plain sight,” Snyder said. “Our competition, which I would tell you is just an oven-baked pizza, there’s not a lot of appeal in that, You’re picking a slice out of a warming tray, and God knows how long that’s been there. Ours has been made to order, right in front of you.”

It eliminates most of the operational costs of having a stationary restaurant.

“You don’t have the cost of electric,” Snyder said. “You do have the insurance, but you don’t have the same insurance as a fixed location. I don’t worry about pipes bursting, heating or air conditioning bills. That is one of the real great appeals for me, I could eliminate a lot of those things and then on top of it, I can take it where the people are and I can do that in a jiffy pretty much.”

On the first day of a long weekend event, it probably takes an hour and a half to set up Touched By Fire and get the oven from cold to warm enough to cook, Snyder said. After day one, it only takes a couple of minutes to get the oven back up to 800 to 900 degrees.

Plus, the mobile pizza oven allows Snyder to choose where and when he wants to sell his product.

“This business, you get to schedule just what you want, when you want,” Snyder said. “The flexibility is a big attractant.”

Snyder said his research shows there are now only about three or four wood-fired pizza trucks in New England, but he predicts he will have a lot more company in the industry soon.

“I really think in the next two to five years, three to five years, this phenomenon will really grow and catch on,” Snyder said. “I say that from a couple standpoints. The conversations I’m having and the interest (people are) expressing … Because of the appeal, the wholesomeness, the quality and the entertainment value, too. People are just tripped out over it – it’s pretty funny.”

For information on Touched By Fire or to schedule a stop for your next party, visit or call 566-2193.

Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or