Philip Dennherdt set up and runs the popular Saturday Pizzas here at Ballymaloe Cookery School. What started out as an experimental pop-up restaurant in 2009 has grown to become a well-known East Cork eatery and a firm favourite with visitors to Ballymaloe Cookery School, Organic Farm & Gardens. We thought it might be nice to chat to Philip and find out a little more about what makes Saturday Pizzas tick!

Q. Philip, what was the inspiration behind setting up Saturday Pizzas here in Shanagarry back in 2009?

A. The idea for Saturday Pizzas really took root when I was on a trip to California a few years ago. I came across a great little cheese and wine bar called Cheeseboard. It had a really relaxed atmosphere and served delicious wood-fired pizza. We wanted to open something similar back home where we could serve the local community, and so Saturday Pizzas was born. At the time, the former Garden Cafe at Ballymaloe Cookery School was not in use. It already had a fantastic brick pizza oven, originally made and shipped from Italy, and it seemed like the perfect place to get the business up and running. We dished up our first pizza on the first weekend of May 2009 and we haven't looked back since!

Q. What's special about Saturday Pizzas exactly?

A. The simple answer is our pizzas are wood-fired and taste amazing! We burn hardwood which means that our pizza oven can reach much hotter temperatures than regular electric ovens. The wood we use imparts a distinct flavour to the pizza and ensures an extra crispy, thin base and oozing melted cheese - all in the authentic Italian style. The high temperature of the oven causes the dough to rise rapidly with little air pockets here and there, resulting in a pizza base that feels as light as air when you bite into it.

Q. What kind of base do you use for your pizzas?

A. At Saturday Pizzas we use sourdough (a secret recipe!) for our pizza bases. Sourdough has its own fantastic flavour which we believe really complements the ingredients that we use for our toppings. More importantly, sourdough is much easier to digest than the more commonly used pizza dough. Many Southern families pass their own sourdough recipe down through the generations. 

Q. Can you tell us a bit more about the menu at Saturday Pizzas and the types of ingredients you use?

A. As much as possible, we use fresh, local and organic ingredients. Our salad leaves, for example, are all sourced right here on the organic farm at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Additionally (and to ensure that our customers can have lots of diverse flavours to look forward to), we work with a wide network of local, national and international suppliers. 

The menu at Saturday Pizzas is uncomplicated yet never boring. Every week we create our menu classics - The Margharita and The Pepperoni - loved by everyone, especially by kids! For the more adventurous pizza lovers, we have two specials which change every week - one meat-based and one vegetarian. We are always reinventing our specials, putting our heads together to dream up new and exciting flavour combinations.

Q. How would you describe the atmosphere at Saturday Pizzas?

A. It's fun and casual. Anyone can drop in on Saturdays between 12:30 and 4pm. Customers love our quirky "playing cards" ordering system. When you order a pizza we assign a playing card (e.g. Nine of Spades) to your order. You then receive a matching playing card. When your order is up we call your card - simple! (We also recently introduced a Customer Loyalty Card - buy 10 pizzas, get 1 free.)

Our customers range from visitors to the East Cork area to groups of friends to local families. We have plenty to keep children amused with colouring pencils, games and lots of space to enjoy the gardens. It's a great place to come and celebrate a birthday party or a family occasion, and visitors can make a day of visiting the Ballymaloe Cookery School Gardens & Farm, stopping into The Farm Shop and, of course, grabbing some delicious pizza!

Q. What can we look forward to at Saturday Pizzas?

A. Our Frozen Saturday Pizzas range is expanding, and we are now distributing to a wide network of shops and other outlets, not just in East Cork but also Cork City. These frozen pizzas are special! By cooking them in your conventional electric oven at a higher temperature and for less time than other frozen pizzas, you achieve a superior result - the next best thing to our brick oven, wood-fired pizzas!

For anyone wanting to take their love of pizza to the next level, keep an eye on our upcoming pizza classes at Ballymaloe Cookery School.