Meet the Pizza Oven Masters of Cincinnati

Sean McCarthy
“When I broke the world record in the wagon wheel deadlift, one of my sponsors gave me the pizza oven,” says Cincinnati Strongman and Westwood resident Sean McCarthy. After recovering from the deadlift (where he hurt his back and broke fingers and toes), McCarthy poured a concrete pad and built a cinder block foundation for the 1,800-pound oven. Now, he and wife Ashley enjoy hosting BYOT (Bring Your Own Toppings, of course) parties. Favorites include “The Squid” (topped with shrimp and named for friend and Navy man Dan Doerner) and s’mores pizzas with Nutella and Hershey’s bars. McCarthy’s trade secret? “Buy the dough [pre-made] at Dewey’s.”

Sean McCarthy

Photograph by Dustin Sparks

Charlie Cleves
Inspired by his sister’s pizza oven in Boston, jeweler and watch maker Charlie Cleves built a commercial-sized version in his Bellevue backyard in 2010. After a lesson from Clifton Pomodori’s owner Tim McLane (who once employed Cleves’s son-in-law, Jon Amster), Cleves learned to keep the crust thin and use toppings sparingly so the pie cooks through. Amster tosses the dough; Cleves bakes it. They’ve cooked for crowds as big as 100 and once even made a Thanksgiving turkey in the oven. Their specialty is a “Big Boy” pizza, with tartar sauce, ground beef, cheddar cheese, and relish. “People go nuts over it,” says Cleves.

Charlie Cleves

Photograph by Dustin Sparks

Mike Motch
Mike Motch’s oven “started with my passion for pizza” but came to fruition after 2008’s Hurricane Ike, when a downed tree destroyed a brick patio in his and wife Susie’s Anderson Township backyard. During restoration, Motch purchased a wood-fired pizza oven kit and hired a mason to build a structure around it using the reclaimed bricks. Today his specialty pizza is goetta-and-egg with a marmalade base—“a little sweet and savory,” he says. He also likes transferring the hot pizza oven coals into a separate outdoor fireplace and making s’mores afterwards. “It’s a labor of love,” he says of the home pizza-making-process. “An addiction that became a hobby.”

Mike Motch

Photograph by Dustin Sparks

Mike Motch’s pizza oven.

Photograph by Dustin Sparks

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Photograph by Dustin Sparks

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