We’re proud to partner with America’s fastest-growing manufacturer of Italian-inspired handcrafted commercial brick ovens, Marra Forni. Who better than co-founders Francesco and Enzo Marra to tell us how to select the best brick ovens?
Since National Pizza Month and National Italian American Heritage Month are both celebrated in October, this month’s post is dedicated to an award-winning American business fueled by Italian passion and culinary business experience.
“As immigrants, we are ambassadors of Italian traditions, culture, and heritage. Our main purpose is to make our clients successful with our business because we indirectly help them to feed millions of people, and that makes us very proud. One customer made a good point about the return on investments for his oven when I asked him how many pizzas he makes. He replied, “400 pizzas per day for 7 days a week, year-round for 10 years.” With our single oven, he made around 1,460,000 pizzas – $24 million in revenue with an investment of just one piece of equipment. Those are the things that make us smile. Through our ovens we make our clients successful and feed millions of people,” said Francesco Marra.
The Marra brothers got started in the brick oven business because a friend asked if they could help him import an oven from Italy. The manufacturers there would not build it the way that their friend desired, so they decided to make one for him. It is that same heartfelt desire to help create what clients truly want that motivates them daily. The brothers began their business with a mission to create custom-built ovens in the United States in a problem-solving way that had never been done before.
The Marra family also credits over 70 years of combined experience in the food industry for enabling them to better respond to the needs of their prospective clients when making pizza ovens. Marra Forni manufactures a variety of ovens built for a wide range of physical spaces and applications. Ovens come in configurations that use multiple fuel sources, including wood, gas-fired, or electric. Their flagship oven series, the Rotator, addresses three increasingly important needs of restaurateurs: the lack of qualified labor, repeatable consistency, and food quality and production efficiency.
“Approximately 80% of the materials and all of the electronics are American,” says COO and Co-Founder Enzo Marra, “We’ve invested in technology and a modernized interface”, Francesco said of the ovens. “We retained our Italian-inspired design, but with a modernized style. We strive to constantly improve and continually innovate in everything we do.”
According to the Marra brothers, here are the Top 5 Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Brick Oven:
1. Quality of Raw Materials – Marra Forni’s brick ovens are handmade by artisans using a mixture of materials including their own proprietary refractory Italian bricks (MarraStone®), metal, and volcanic pumice stone for insulation.
2. Craftmanship – Marra Forni ovens represent the strength, tradition, and culture of authentic artisan Italian brick ovens while embracing the American love of technology and innovation. For the Marra Brothers, it’s important to export and expand the tradition of brick oven making in the United States, since they have been doing it for centuries in Italy.
3. Design – Marra Forni’s sleek and streamlined aesthetics range from customizable commercial brick ovens, electric ovens, mobile pizza ovens, venting systems, and oven tools or cooking accessories. They are the top choice among designers and chefs alike because of their style and functionality. The ovens are often the focal point of the restaurants that purchase them as well as the lifeline of the business.
4. Technology – All of the technological and digital components come from the U.S. and comply with U.S. quality and durability standards. Now in its 11th year, Marra Forni has become a VPN-certified leader in the brick pizza oven industry and has received industry recognition from the National Restaurant Association and Kitchen Innovations as well as the prestigious Italian award, the Premio Eccellenza Italiana. They were also named the “2020 Champion of Maryland Manufacturing for Innovation” by the RMI (Regional Manufacture Institute of Maryland).
5. Service – It is Marra Forni’s main mission to set its customers up for success. Their backup call system is a software system that allows anyone in technical support to access and dispatch from a global network of trained and factory-authorized service providers to support our customers’ needs, typically responding by phone call 2 hours and on-site within 12 hours for brick oven service. They like to ensure that the problem is fixed within 24 hours if parts don’t need to be ordered. The less time that customers have to wait, the sooner they can get back to profitably running their businesses!
“Pizza has always been a major part of our lives,” says Enzo Marra, “We grew up buying it for 50 Lire on our way home from school, it was a delicious and inexpensive meal we could afford with friends as we got older, and fried pizza was our weekly Sunday morning treat. Now, it is our livelihood, and we are proud to share the tradition with the world”, he added.
Marra Forni is currently present on 5 continents and in 23 countries worldwide and produces more than 300-400 ovens per year. The company often donates its ovens to various community events that need them. The most memorable of these events is the NY Food & Wine Festival which benefited God’s Love We Deliver and served pizzas for our US Veterans at Washington DC, VA Medical Center. Known as the “Ferraris of the pizza oven world,” Marra Forni’s ovens can be spotted everywhere from Whole Foods to Food Network shows, hospitals, military bases, and many more. For the past four years, they have participated in Pizza Festivals around the United States such as this year’s festival in Atlantic City. Previous festivals have been in Boston, LA, and in the future, hopefully, DC.
While their culinary visions continue to grow, both Francesco and Enzo Marra believe that they and Marra Forni have achieved a “small slice of the American dream.” They continue to be a Company that cares and gives back to the community as a part of its culture. “Our main interest is the well-being of human beings including our team, customers, families, and communities at large. We are driven by our passion for the industry and helping people.”
A pizza business, however, needs much more than state-of-the-art equipment to thrive. Along with passion, skilled pizzaioli and pizza business operating strategies are needed, “Do you know any chef, I need a chef” is another common comment that Enzo and Francesco Marra get asked continuously. There is a real shortage of talented pizza makers who have the training needed to succeed in the fast-paced and demanding job of being a pizzaiolo. After witnessing their clients’ businesses fail because they didn’t have properly trained employees, the Marra family decided to start a school, and the Pizza University & Culinary Arts Center was born.
Since the beginning, Pizza University & Culinary Arts Center has hired pizza-industry leaders to teach classes in various styles of pizza. Having VPN recognition is important not only to the Marra brothers but also to their clients who are interested in upholding the integrity of authentic Neapolitan pizza in their businesses. The VPN Association was founded in 1984 and is based on a protocol in order to protect and increase the value of the pizzas produced and processed according to the old Neapolitan traditions and customs that earned it a place UNESCO cultural heritage status.
For many pizzerias, having the VPN seal of approval denotes authenticity and quality, and Marra Forni is proud to be an approved supplier on their list. In addition, our many instructors are long-standing members of VPN. A world-class producer of ovens and related specialty equipment, known for great employees, great service, and unmatched innovation, they are the perfect brick oven manufacturer to partner with.