Kingsland welcomes new wood-fired pizza joint Umu Pizza

by Kate Richards / 22 March, 2018
Photography by Ken Downie.
Umu pizza

Umu Pizza owner Simon Murphy slides a fresh pizza out of the three-tonne wood-fired oven.

Umu Pizza, a new pizza joint opens in Kingsland

You’d be right to admire the three-tonne white-tiled oven which sits just inside the door at soon-to-open pizza joint Umu – made by a third generation Naples-born oven maker, the process from building to shipment took five months. When it finally arrived, Umu’s owner Simon Murphy not only had to hire a forklift, four men, three vans, and close part of New North Road to get it in place, he had to remove his entire shopfront too. It’s crucial, he explains, that the wood-fired oven (or umu) is right because it will be the foundation of everything that’s cooked here.

An ex-travel agent shop, redesigned by Gerrick Numan of Mille, Umu is small. All exposed brick and soft pinks the restaurant seats only 24 across three tables of eight, with the bulk of the front-half of the room taken up by the oven and a small bar. Murphy hopes the tight quarters mean a big buzz when the restaurant is full.

Umu pizza

Umu's interior.

But Umu is about more than just a snazzy room, it’s about pizza – one of Murphy’s favourite foods. Pies will be loosely Napoli-style with 36-48 hour fermented sourdough bases made using a mix of Italian 00 and stoneground flours. Toppings include the standard tomato-mozzarella-basil combo but they also veer away from the traditional: Murphy predicts a Hungarian salami, Aleppo pepper and pickled red onion-topped number will be as popular as another non-traditional recipe with homemade lamb merguez, harissa and labneh. “This isn’t strictly Italian food,” he says.

As well as pizza, Umu’s consulting chef Reginaldo Richard (ex-Odettes) has created a couple of wood-fired sides, there’ll be local tap beers from Brothers Brewery and Urbanaut, and wine from Matakana-based organic vineyard, Te Rata. Most of the drinks will be bought by the keg to reduce waste and when they’re empty, the list will change.

And we need to talk about the wood which will be used to stoke the fire in the oven, because choosing it has been a pretty lengthy process. “People like manuka,” says Murphy, “but it doesn’t burn hot enough for pizza.” His oven needs to reach temperatures of 450-500 degrees Celsius, so he’s using a mix of kiln-dried beech and oak with a few manuka and pohutukawa branches for flavour. As is typical with Napoli pizza, each topped base will see a 90-second turn in the oven before being served.

umu pizza

The 'Number One' pizza - tomato, mozzarella, basil.

Murphy, whose first job was incidentally as a pizza delivery boy, is visibly excited about his new venture and has spent several months refining recipes and researching flours, sauces and cheese, even moving out of his east Auckland home to live above the shop while it was renovated. He’s back home with the family now, his umu is seasoned, and the only thing left to do is open the doors.

Umu Pizza opens 24 March 2018

Umu Pizza
469 New North Road, Kingsland

RelatedArticlesModule - Pizza related


Why ethical eating often stops at the restaurant door
101520 2019-01-22 00:00:00Z Food

Why ethical eating often stops at the restaurant d…

by Rachel A. Ankeny and Heather Bray

Can a chef promote foraging, seasonality and plant-based eating, yet also serve meat and other animal-derived protein products on the same menu?

Read more
Why the Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery is bound to attract the curious
101463 2019-01-22 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Why the Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery is bound…

by Ellen Rykers

Artist Bruce Mahalski's museum is the result of a lifetime of collecting.

Read more
Gillette ad isn't anti-men, it's anti-toxic masculinity – it should be welcomed
101480 2019-01-21 16:59:29Z Social issues

Gillette ad isn't anti-men, it's anti-toxic mascul…

by Nicola Bishop

The backlash against the Gillette ad shows how painfully little distance we as a society have covered since the #MeToo movement.

Read more
Cost of Auckland public transport to go up
101459 2019-01-21 14:08:56Z Auckland Issues

Cost of Auckland public transport to go up

by RNZ

Auckland's public transport users will soon see fares increase by up to 50 cents.

Read more
The future of gangs in New Zealand
101322 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z Social issues

The future of gangs in New Zealand

by Philippa Tolley

Best of RNZ: Gangs have been a feature of New Zealand society for more than half a century. Philippa Tolley takes a look at what future lies ahead.

Read more
How some Germans are countering the extremist views of the far-right
101320 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z World

How some Germans are countering the extremist view…

by Cathrin Schaer

Germans face a familiar dilemma in finding ways to oppose the views of the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Read more
White Noise: Who is shaping Auckland's future?
101439 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z Auckland Issues

White Noise: Who is shaping Auckland's future?

by Kate Newton

Some Aucklanders have more say in their city's future than others.

Read more
Stephen Fry revisits the world of the Ancient Greeks in Heroes
101242 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z Books

Stephen Fry revisits the world of the Ancient Gree…

by Lauren Buckeridge

In his delightful way, Stephen Fry dips back into the ancient world with more stories of tests, quests and feats of old.

Read more