Pizza and wine — a winning combination, every time.
All winter long, guests have been asking, "when is Pizza Brama coming back to Rocklands?" And finally, friends, the time has come! Pizza Brama will make their long-awaited return on May 6, the first Saturday in May. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
In anticipation of this joyful reunion, I spoke with Mike Carignan, the pizzaiolo (aka, pizza maker) himself.
Perfectionism in Pizza
Mike first had the idea of opening up a mobile pizzeria in 2013. Fed up with his corporate job of 20 years, he wanted to pursue something he loved doing recreationally.
“Once I started cooking, I fell in love with the quest for doing things well. Cooking is really just a series of small, menial tasks, but if you do them all correctly, in the right order, something remarkable comes out.”
Mike spent the next two years researching and learning the craft of Neopolitan-style pizza making. On May 6, 2015, Pizza Brama opened the doors of its wood-fired oven for the first time.
Since then, Mike has sold more than 18,000 pizzas. He has expanded the enterprise from a two-person shop of him and his wife, aka Mrs. Brama, to one with four full-time employees, two part-time employees, two volunteers, and Mrs. Brama, who still makes the occasional basil run when they're out.
Currently, Pizza Brama’s infamous wood-fired oven (her name is Eleanor) can be found in four locations, including Rocklands, where you can find it every Saturday and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m.
When Mike sells at the farm, he encourages Rocklands wine pairings with these five signature pies:
The Rocklands-Pizza Brama relationship all began in 2014, when Mike tried Rocklands' wine for the first time. He recalls being blown away and demanding to shake the winemaker's hand. After that and a cold call to co-founder, CEO, and farm manager Greg Glenn, the partnership began.
The two companies have a lot in common. They were both started by dream-followers, for one thing. They employ people who delight in sharing products made with their own two hands. They also share a commitment to trust with their customers. When training their wine tasters, Rocklands emphasizes that it's their mission to make guests feel comfortable during their wine-tasting experience. Not everyone has a background in wine consumption, and it can be intimidating to enter that environment.
Similarly, Mike's policy is: "Don't intimidate people with food. Make it safe for them to relax and enjoy the food and each other's company. If we are lucky, they will feel safe to explore new flavors and ingredients."
When he started working with Rocklands, Mike was already selling pizzas at farmers markets and becoming familiar with local farmers. He is a firm believer of knowing the farmers he works with, and he feels strongly that fresh, local ingredients simply taste better. Not only does Mike source ingredients from Rocklands, but he also works closely with Rocklands' neighbor Plow and Stars Farm, as well as McCleaf's Orchard, whose honeycrisp apples, cider, and apple butter can also be found at Rocklands every fall.
Pizza Brama’s mission is not just to sell pizzas, but to “use what our farmers provide us and then try not to screw up their work.”
Mike is extremely humble about his craft. As he puts it: "the farmers do all the work. I just do the last 2 percent of crafting the food into something delicious."
Mike incorporates Rocklands’ meats into his pies in the form of house-made fennel pork sausage, pancetta, house-made roasted ham, and meatballs.
Last year, Mike brought new offerings to his Rocklands clientele that ranged from misto (Italian for "mix") plates of fresh roasted veggies paired with cheese and olives, to squash blossom pizza pies, to zeppole (the best Italian doughnut holes you've ever had).
Now in his third year, Mike wants to branch out even more into fruit desserts that complement Rocklands wines.
"Rocklands is growing so much," he told me. "Greg, Shawn, and I have talked a lot about how we can improve the experience of visiting Rocklands. I am hopeful that Year 3 will be a great one."
If this post has given you a brama (Italian for "craving"), post a comment below with a Pizza Brama/Rocklands pairing you'd like to see. Then head over to Rocklands this weekend to make your dream come true!