Sei-shiroma

Ferro e Farinha: Food Trucks come to Rio

 

This is Sei Shiroma.

Sei-shiroma

 

I first heard from Sei through an email I received a year or so ago. Back then he was living in New York, working in advertising and planning a move to Rio. Today he is a food obsessed gringo, living in Rio and married to a carioca (sound familiar?). He is also something of an inspiration.

Back in his NYC days, Sei cunningly manoeuvred his way out of a less than fulfilling day job and into the wonderful world of Neapolitan Pizzas, first working on a food truck and later working in a successful Brooklyn restaurant. As he learned his skills, he progressed from enthusiastic novice to seasoned pro.

 

What is Neapolitan Pizza?

Neapolitan Pizza is made with super-fine, high-protein flour; San Marzano tomatoes (grown at the foot of Mt Vesuvius) and Fior di Latte (a cow’s milk mozzarella with a bright milk taste with a clean finish). When it comes out of the oven, the pizza is finished with extra virgin olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Sei goes on to explain: “The pizza dough is by far the most labour-intensive part of the process and is what makes these pizzas so special. The dough has just four ingredients (flour, water, fresh yeast, salt) and is hand mixed.  It rises for 3 days in the fridge to develop a depth in flavour and to achieve greater aeration.”

pizza-before

A great pizza is a thing of simplicity – dough, tomato, mozzarella, basil. This is what they look like before they go in the oven.

 

The pizza cooks in a high-heat oven at around 450°C (850°F) and develops little black blisters, known as cornicione, that fleck the border of the pizza.

According to Sei, “the finished result is a meeting of the savoury sauce, creamy cheese, ever-so-slightly sour and smoky dough, cut by the sweet basil, all swirling on the palette to give a sensation that I describe in a single word: ‘Damn!'”

Here’s a video that shows the process from start to finish and should get your mouth watering.

 

Ferro e Farinha

In 2011, in a twist of fate that I can relate to, Sei’s life was changed when he met a girl from Rio. They decided to move to Rio and start a Neapolitan pizza food truck business!

When Sei originally contacted me, it had been to ask for advice on some aspects of moving to Rio. We corresponded for a while and then things went quiet. 6 months passed and then, out of the blue, I heard from him again – he had made it to Rio!

We met up and, over a few too many beers, compared notes on everything from our views on the food culture of Rio to our plans for the future. On this latter subject, Sei impressed me with the scale of his ambition – along with all the usual challenges of moving to Rio, he had also commissioned the construction of a mobile pizza oven capable of achieving the blisteringly high temperatures required for Neapolitan pizza. Now he was about to embark on the next step – Ferro e Farinha.

Sei-Daniela

Sei and his wife Daniela, in a (relatively) calm moment during Ferro and Farinha’s opening night.

 

Food Trucks in Rio?

Ferro e Farinha, the title that Sei chose for his nascent business, means ‘Iron and Flour’ and I was lucky enough to be there on his opening night. On a quiet street in the Zona Norte neighbourhood of Grajaú, Sei, Daniela and their assistant Thiago knocked out dozens of delicious pizzas to a small group of friends and some curious passers by.

ferro-e-farinha

The Ferro e Farinha street setup.

 

The people who just happened to be passing by were fascinated and asked a lot of questions. Why was the oven on wheels? Would he be coming back to the same spot next week? Why wasn’t there any ketchup or mayonnaise? (just kidding with that last one, though Cariocas know what I’m talking about – hang your heads in shame!).

ferro-e-farinha-pizza

The end result of all that work – a pizza to be proud of. No ketchup required!

 

I suspect that one of Sei’s biggest challenges will be explaining the concept of a food truck to Cariocas. The Ferro e Farinha pizza oven will rove around Rio, serving up great pizza and winning fans who will follow its progress and track it down through social media.

Having tasted the results of Sei and Daniela’s hard work, I believe they will be a huge success. If you’re in Rio and want how good real pizza can get, use the links below to connect and find out when and where they’ll show up next!

 

Links

Facebook: FerroEFarinha

Twitter: @Ferroefarinha

 

ferro-e-farinha

Coming soon to a street near you.

15 replies
  1. carlos
    carlos says:

    Wonder what the startup cost is for that operation. Seems like that concept would be even more popular in parts of BR that experience colder weather, like Curitiba, Floripa, Porto Alegre……..

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Absolutely – I don’t want to incur the wrath of the cariocas, but I hear that southern Brazil has a reputation for a higher grade of pizza. I expect that the heat from the oven would be an extra incentive to hang out and enjoy a few slices in winter 🙂

      Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      I like it too! I have to say, I always thought pizza was rather boring, but then I tried Neapolitan pizza in London where they call it ‘Sourdough pizza’ – it was delicious! Now I am converted 🙂

      Reply
  2. John Napper
    John Napper says:

    I need to try this. I clicked the facebook link but there is no mention of where and when to find him. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hi John – I definitely recommend it. I first tried this type of pizza in a place in Brixton Market called Franco Manca – it was really good and very different to the pizzas I had grown up on.

      I think the F&F operation is still in the start-up phase, so it may be a month or so until the operation really gets going on a regular basis, but it’ll be worth the wait. I’ll post some links on Facebook when there are some dates and locations.

      p.s. maybe I’ll see you there!

      Reply
      • Johnny
        Johnny says:

        Franco Manca was my favourite pizza in London (even the overpowering smell from the fish market next to it couldn’t take away from the experience!). They also did awesome homemade lemonade.

        I’ll definitely be looking out for this mobile pizza oven in Humaitá!

        Reply
  3. Chris Wright
    Chris Wright says:

    I love these stories. Fair play to him for having a go. There’s a reason why Argentinean pizza is fantastic in Buenos Aires and for me its because of the strong Italian influence in the city.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Absolutely – I imagine that having a go at something like this must be exciting and scary in equal measures. I’ve always said that Rio feels like a city full of opportunity – plenty of unfilled niches, that’s for sure – maybe I’ll give something like this a try one day… I will be watching Sei’s progress with great interest 🙂

      Also, I’m sure you’re right about the Italian influence in BA. Maybe someone can correct me here, but I believe (compared to Rio) there is a strong Italian influence in São Paulo too – I’m pretty sure the pizza is better there too.

      Reply
  4. Andrew Francis
    Andrew Francis says:

    I’m sure I’ve said this before but pizza is an institution in Sao Paulo in a way that it isn’t in the rest of Brazil. But that also means that Sao Paulo has evolved its own style of pizza that is no longer the same as the original Italian. That reminds me of an article I read a while back, especially the last bit when one guy says something like “if I served Neapolitan style pizzas, customers would think I was scrimping on the ingredients”:

    http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/fsp/comida/24552-pizza-de-origem.shtml

    To be honest, I like choice, so the more styles available, the better. Even if I don’t really understand the hype around Food Trucks. Call me a crusty old fart, but haven’t we had people selling food from trucks for a while now? It sounds more like marketing than substance but I wish your friend a lot of success, regardless.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      It’s a fair point the guy makes – from the sounds of things, Paulistas have developer their own style so why should they feel the need to copy the Italian style. Not sure the same could be said of the pizza in Rio though… 😉

      There is definitely quite a bit of hype of food trucks – as far as I can tell they took off while I was being a backpacker so I was mystified when I first started hearing about them. I guess the new part is the social media interaction. Also, when I think of the traditional idea of food being sold from a truck, I conjure up memories of a ‘burger van’ at live music events – not good!

      Reply
      • Andrew Francis
        Andrew Francis says:

        Yeah, there’s no reason why established pizzerias should change their style but that doesn’t mean new ones shouldn’t open up with a different type of pizza. Let the public decide which one they like best. If I remember correctly, Pizza Hut (I know – fast food – but it’s a different type of pizza nonetheless) almost went bust the first time they opened up in Sao Paulo but they seem to be back and doing alright.

        As for food trucks, I was completely missing the social media angle. I think that’s actually more interesting than the (alleged) superior quality of the food.

        Reply
  5. Alex
    Alex says:

    I’m totally in support of this one!!

    And sorry, but everyone says pizza in São Paulo is amazing too and Ive had it in ”good” and bad places, but it’s still bad in each place, just different levels of bad. I can’t comment on the Carioca pizza scene but I’d imagine it being worse, just cause Rio received little Italian influence compared to most of Brazil.

    Hey Tom, maybe you should jump on the bandwagon and open up a fish and chip, bangers and mash and ale food truck? hehehe

    Reply

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