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London Mayor’s No Smoke Pledge Draws Ire From (Some) Wood-Fired Pizzerias

Environmental pledge for cleaner air in the city could affect restaurants that burn solid fuel

Courtesy Yard Sale

Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, has called for new measures to ban the use of wood-burning stoves in London, a move which theoretically threatens London restaurants — and especially its new-wave wood-fired pizzerias — who use them.

The Evening Standard report that the Mayor’s proposals, which were drafted in a letter to Environment Secretary Michael Gove “form part of a raft of measures to combat non-road pollution, such as that produced by diggers and wood fires, and include a call for the creation of zones where burning solid fuel such as wood is outlawed.”

It’s a move that site Hot Dinners reported, as a joke, on April Fool’s Day this year.

Anticipating the new measures, The Evening Standard quote Jim Winship, the director of the Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association, who said: "Removing wood fired ovens from pizza and Italian restaurants in the capital would damage the businesses which run them.

"They’d lose their USP — it undermines the authenticity of their products and could eventually lead to job losses. The smoke from wood ovens in commercial restaurants are also extremely well filtered so they do little harm to the environment."

Pizzeria Basilico owner, Geoff Parsons, also quoted by The Evening Standard, said: “A wood-fired oven is an integral part of the authentic pizza experience. It’s a part of the flavour profile of the food, it’s central to our brand identity and there is a minimal number of authentic wood-fired pizza ovens in London. If there’s 50, I’d be surprised."

It’s become the hallmark of a number of London’s best, largely Neapolitan(-inspired) pizzerias.

Some, however, are less fearful of the move. Pasquale Chionchio, co-owner of Santa Maria (one of London’s first authentic Neapolitan pizzerias) told Eater London, “Nowadays the number of pizzerias in London has increased dramatically, and most of them they have no equipment to clean the smoke they produce, and environmentally we need to be as friendly as possible.

“Even in Naples many pizzerias are switching to gas burning ovens, cleaner and more sustainable. If the Mayor will ban our ovens, it means that we’ll embrace and support his decision.

“At the end of the day, pizza made with gas is 99/100 of the 100/100 made with wood. If I have to sacrifice 1% to look after our environment, I’m more than happy to do it!”

Khan had said in a statement:

“Non-transport sources contribute half of the deadly emissions in London, so we need a hard-hitting plan of action to combat them similar to moves I am taking to reduce pollution from road vehicles.

“With more than 400 schools located in areas exceeding legal pollution levels, and such significant health impacts on our most vulnerable communities, we cannot wait any longer, and I am calling on government to provide the capital with the necessary powers to effectively tackle harmful emissions from a variety of sources.”

The move could also impact non-pizza restaurants such as Lyle’s, Temper, Kiln — all of whom have gained a reputation for their cooking and grilling on wood and charcoal — spelling the end for one of the most voguish modern cooking techniques in the capital.

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