Off to Work ... with a dough-thrower who keeps pizza in the oven
by Bill Edwards
May 23, 2011 | 4127 views |  0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chris Castillo, of Anthony's Brick Oven and Brew Pub (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Chris Castillo, of Anthony's Brick Oven and Brew Pub (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
There’s a practical reason behind the flips and tosses you see being given to pizza dough at a restaurant, and Chris Castillo knows what it is.

That’s because he goes off to work five days a week “basically making everything on the menu,” as he puts it, at Anthony’s Brick Oven & Brew Pub on Noble Street.

At the age of 24, Castillo hasn’t been in the business that long, relatively speaking. But he hails from a part of the country — south Florida — known for its culinary style, and his family was always comfortable in the kitchen. He took to the craft easily when he seized the opportunity to do some kitchen work at his previous employer, Mellow Mushroom in Oxford.

“It was me talking them into it,” he recalled.

He worked for Mellow Mushroom for a total of about two years, then started with Anthony’s after doing a little cooking there at the Noble Street Festival earlier this year.

His days now begin after the lunch crowd has departed and last until closing time. Three other employees work in the kitchen, too — one with Castillo on his shift and two earlier in the day.

Castillo makes his own dough out of yeast, flour, honey and a couple of secret ingredients. One big batch in one big bowl generally lasts the night.

To get a pizza order started, he pulls off a chunk of dough and kneads it into a ball. Working it with his hands, Castillo makes the ball flatter and thinner.

Tossing it up and letting the dough spin is a quick and efficient way of stretching it out to the proper size.

“Centrifugal force pulls the dough apart,” he said.

And yes, sometimes gravity gets the best of him.

“It’s really easy to drop dough when you’re in a hurry,” he said. “That goes straight in the trash.”

After it’s the right diameter and thickness and topped with the customer’s requested ingredients, the pie goes into the brick oven. Heat is generated from a wood fire inside a domed space, where flames heat the air that cooks the top of the pizza. The heated stone itself cooks the bottom.

“It’s a little different because you have to turn the pizza toward the fire,” Castillo said, explaining the difference between cooking in a brick oven with gas and in Anthony’s brick oven using firewood.

Currently a student at Jacksonville State University, Castillo said he appreciates the atmosphere at Anthony’s, which he describes as “laid back.” One night recently found him responsible for three pizzas, four strombolis and two calzones.

“I don’t get upset about stuff, I just do it,” he said.
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