Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: The Copper Oven, Ovid (Finger Lakes) NY

A recent Finger Lakes vacation landed us in the center of a region offering a lot of terrific food and wine (and beer and spirits) in addition to the hiking, waterfalls, river gorges, and lake activities. Our home base was a cabin just off Rt. 89 in Ovid, NY, along the shores of Lake Cayuga. That put us about a half hour from Ithaca to the south and Lake Seneca to the west. 
"The Godfather"
At nearby Lucas Vineyards, we'd experienced great BBQ and wine on the lawn with live music. Just minutes away on another night, we found superb charcuterie with flights of hard cider while listening to the old-timey music of the superb Miller's Wheel band at Finger Lakes Cider House.

The bar was set pretty high, then, when we were drawn to visit The Copper Oven (at Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery) by the small "Wood Fired Pizza" sign out on the edge of the highway. The winery and restaurant are housed in an eye-catching red barn that is perched on a rolling hill with terrific views of Lake Cayuga.
Dog-friendly rear deck dining
"They didn't give me any pizza"
We called ahead to be assured of an outdoor table where we could bring our dog. It was a warm but beautiful night for our party of four. We selected three of the four pies on the menu, each made with the surprising choice of cheddar cheese:
  • FunGuy with crème fraîche, mushrooms, chives, smoked salt, and and truffle oil
  • Summer's Bounty with crème fraîche, Roma tomatoes, corn, basil, and lemon salt
  • The Godfather with red sauce, Italian sausage, peppers, and caramelized onions

We started by sharing some superb salads of local greens topped with beets and goat cheese, and we ordered a bottle of Cuvée Red, a vineyard blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and chancellor grapes. It was an excellent $15 pizza wine.
House Sangria

This limited-menu pizza restaurant was built around that copper oven. According to the website, "The core of our 6,000 pound Le Panyol oven is made up of Terre Blanche (white earth), a kaolinic clay that has been specially harvested in France since 1840 for the many special properties that make it ideal for wood fired cooking."
"Summer's Bounty"
Our server told us that the pies bake at 800 degrees, so these are Neapolitan in style if not in name. Owner/chef Mary Jane Challen-Kircher takes a "hyper-local" approach to crafting these pies and the few other dishes on the menu. 
"Fun Guy"
Each pizza was bigger than a typical personal size, irregular in shape, probably 13-14 inches in average diameter. The pies cook in that wood-fired copper dome, and they come out thin, crisp, and sporting some lovely char on the edges and underneath.

The crust was identical, and spectacular, on all three pies. Unlike the typical Neapolitan, there was no soupy wet spot in the center. Each pie had an ideal proportion of toppings to that thin crust, so that it was balanced in both flavor and texture.

It's hard to pick a favorite here. The Godfather was the most traditional, and the quality of the toppings was evident in every bite. Most surprising was the Summer's Bounty, but the crème fraîche was the right ingredient to help the Roma tomatoes and sweet corn succeed on a pizza.

Getting a very slight edge as overall favorite was the FunGuy, because the flavors of the cheddar, mushrooms, truffle oil, and chives were in such harmony. Bursting with umami to complement the perfect texture. And, on each pie, the cornicione had its own excellent and full flavor.

In other parts of America, folks are paying $100 a seat for this kind of artisan-and-farm-to-table meal. Beyond being a spectacular meal, this was also a wonderful bargain. Destination pizza, lovely outdoor setting, good service, good wine.
The Copper Oven

It's hard to go wrong in this stretch along Lake Cayuga, but The Copper Oven was our top can't-miss dining and pizza destination.


  The Copper Oven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


  1. Have you tried Tony's place on Frankford Ave in Northeast Philly? I'd highly recommend it. As somebody who also holds DeLorenzo's as the gold standard of what Pizza should be, I also quite enjoy Tony's. 5 dollar large pies Monday and Wednesday can't be beat also. While there's not much to do in Mayfair, right down the block is the Grey Lodge, which is considered one of the best bar's in Philadelphia in a super unlikely location

  2. Wow, thanks for the tip. I have never heard of Tonys, but it looks great. I HAVE been to Grey Lodge, which makes a great cheesesteak. It came in at #4 on my Cheesesteak Roundup: