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Mela Kitchen: Pairing Unique Ciders with Pizza

Marra forni DSCF7141Mela Kitchen’s signature apple-bacon pizza.You’ve heard of breweries and wineries, but chances are you’ve never been in a cidery. In Gettysburg, Pa., Jack’s Hard Cider produces popular hard ciders (and a few wines as well) on-site. Made from local Pennsylvania apples, these handcrafted ciders come in a variety of flavors with seasonal selections also offered.

To accompany these artisanal ciders, Jack’s opened up a restaurant, Mela Kitchen, on the grounds of the cidery in 2020. Mela (appropriately, Italian for “apple”) is a 150-seat restaurant with a menu that Executive Chef Josh Fidler calls “Italian-forward.” The menu features a wide range of house-made pasta dishes, entrees and small plates for sharing.

But the real heart of the menu at Mela Kitchen is pizza, a traditional Neapolitan-style pizza, thin crust with just a touch of blackening: “We like to get a nice, speckled charring on them,” Fidler says. While Mela offers many of the favorite Neapolitan pizzas like Margherita and artichoke, one of its more unusual offerings is its signature apple-and-bacon pizza. “We’re like the fourth-largest apple-producing region in the United States,” Fidler says. “We use fresh apples to press our cider; the apple is an integral part of our restaurant. So we have an apple-bacon pizza that people are really into. It’s sweet and salty. It works.”

In the same way that restaurants offer wine pairings, Mela Kitchen offers cider pairings. “We produce about six flagship ciders,” he says. “So we pair those on the menu with certain pieces on the menu. The apple-bacon pizza we pair with our Atomic white wine. Our sausage and pepper pizza — which is also really popular — we pair with our Sweet Helen’s Blend.”

The Right Oven

Marra forni DSCF7140With its Marra Forni Rotator oven, Mela Kitchen can produce as many as 300 artisanal pizzas in an evening.To produce those signature pizzas, Mela Kitchen depends on a Marra Forni Rotator brick oven. Fidler has worked with other ovens in the past. “I had a restaurant before this with a traditional Roman-style wood-burning oven,” he says. “It took a lot of effort to get good dry wood in, chop everything, and get it stacked. And it’s very dirty.”

The Marra Forni Rotator oven eliminates those problems and produces with greater consistency, Fidler says. “It allows us to be more precise and make more pizzas with a consistency that we never would’ve been able to with my old oven.” It also lets him produce pizzas quickly — an important point on busy weekends when he has to produce as many as 300 pizzas in a single night. That advantage was driven home recently when Mela Kitchen participated in a charity event for the local food bank. “People bought tickets and we just kept cranking pizzas,” he said. “We did almost 300 in an hour and a half.”

For Josh Fidler and Mela Kitchen, the Marra Forni Rotator oven has become essential. “I could crank out some good pizzas from my old wood-burning oven, but we’re getting a better result now than I ever did at my old restaurant. It’s been one of the greatest single pieces of equipment I’ve ever had in the kitchen.”