Bertello, once the darling of Shark Tank and Kickstarter, has been making pizza ovens for since 2015. The Napoli Bertello oven is touted as gas, wood or charcoal fired. Which is true,mostly. You’ll have to spring for the attachment to get the gas option, running just over $100 currently. Frankly that is probably worth it because it offers flexibility in addition to fuel choices.
The real questions are; does it deliver as stated, does it cook pizzas well, and is the design functional. Here’s what we found you should know about the Napoli Bertello pizza oven.
We found it a challenge to get his unit up to the stated 950 degree goal. Working toward that, we found a couple interesting facets, almost anomalies. One of the best features is the cordierite pizza stone. Bertello did not skimp here. They use a thick heavy slab for your cooking surface. As a result it holds heat really well, better than air as you would expect.
Getting the stone to 950 was never accomplished by us using just wood. Add the gas and you can get there, without, we maxed out just over 750 degrees. Funnily though, the stone’s heat retention was so good that we often got higher readings form the stone than from the ambient chamber temperature. Which brings us to our second favorite aspect of this unit. The flame rolls beautifully across the top of the box. Aesthetically delightful, but it can be problematic when actually cooking. We’ll come back to that point.
Last thought about flame and fire management. Be aware; when adding fuel, open the cove and step back. The backdraft of billowing flame is very disconcerting. After a quick eyebrow singe the lesson was learned and our surprise factor was overcome.
This is a sturdy unit coming in at over 40 pounds. The weight brings up the question of actual portability. If you’re lugging that much weight to the beach, how much red wine can you carry to enjoy with the pizza? Seriously, portable seems a stretch at this weight.
That being said, the weight adds up starting with the solid stone we mentioned. It is a double wall steel construction with some insulation between the layers. With the visible rivets, 360 powder coat black finish and simple planes, it conveys sturdy construction. We certainly found the unit to be rock-solid.
The pizzas of Napoli are known for high temp fast cook times. In that respect this Bertello oven delivers. In fact it can be too good at it. With the great heat retention of the stone, and the billowing flames coruscating across the top of the oven, too much heat on your pie is a real threat. Plan on making a couple quick rotations during cooking, which brings us to perhaps the biggest challenge of using this pizza oven.
The opening is rated at 12.5 inches. Putting in a 12 inch pizza gives you a tolerance of just a quarter inch on each side. At 750 plus degrees, or potentially 950 degrees with the gas attachment, that is not much room to fudge. So, by necessity you end up with smaller pies, which may or may not be an issue for you. They will get cooked, and the bottom crisps up nicely from the stone’s heat.
Bertello offers you three choices for fuel with the standard model; wood chunks, pellets or charcoal. The nice thing is you can work with a mix of those elements finding the best attributes of each. Chunks offer the best combination of smoke flavor and coals for burn length. Charcoal brings the heat a little better, made to deliver a consistent burn with slower heat release and less smoke. Pellets are easy to start, add decent smoke flavor and well-paced consumption.
Most of the fuel you use will be consumed getting the unit up to temperature. The fuel box is decently sized, but it takes fuel to make the pretty flames and get the entire unit preheated. Knowing that, it is not a problem to add more fuel prior to putting your pizza(s) in, just watch the backdraft. Overall, wood based fuel consumption is typical, and they do make this part of the clean up fairly easy.
Obviously gas offers the easiest most convenient fuel source. It also offers the most control since you can just dial it down. Another feature we did enjoy was that you could use wood in conjunction with the gas for flavoring. Be aware that it gets burned quickly from the gas flame. But adding a chunk or two, which is about all it will accommodate, right before putting your pie in, will get you a noticeable smoke infusion.
Our biggest caveat was the lack of an included propane attachment that makes it somewhat inconvenient if you want to cook using wood pellets or natural wood, as propane can help ensure the best results. However, if you have some extra money to spare for the attachment, you can get the most from this oven and enjoy the ideal outdoor cooking experience.
The optional gas attachment will get the BTUs flowing and offers great control. However, be aware that it takes away the compact aspect of the Bertello. The unit adds at least ten inches to the back of the oven, which is already long at 24 inches exterior depth. Sneaking up on a three foot depth may change where you can safely use the unit.
Like most hybrid approaches, the unit doesn’t perform optimally in all the available avenues. Decent performance from wood based options and a completely different dynamic with the gas. With different attentiveness, it will get the job done and offer an authentic Neapolitan cooking process.
All in all, it’s affordable compared to a lot of other wood-fire ovens that reach such high temperatures. At around a $300, it won’t break the bank when adding an oven to your backyard cooking space. Spending a little extra for a propane attachment isn’t all that big of a deal.