Mobile wood-fired oven dishes up Neapolitan pizza in Lake Tahoe |

Mobile wood-fired oven dishes up Neapolitan pizza in Lake Tahoe

Claire Cudahy


Though businesses like Oven are cropping up in South Lake Tahoe, city code limits how mobile vendors can operate. The code doesn’t allow for a long-term operating license for parking and selling food around the city, even on private property. Instead, anyone who wants to sell food from a truck, trailer or cart must apply and pay for a temporary special-use permit every time they want to vend. Exceptions are made when the vendor falls under the umbrella of a special use permit issued for an event like a farmers market or Live at Lakeview.

Keep it simple, but do it well — that’s the motto of South Shore’s latest addition to the culinary scene: a mobile wood-fired oven cranking out delicious Neapolitan pizzas.

This summer husband and wife duo Kris and Kelly Johnson debuted their catering business, Oven, with a few pop-up events around South Lake Tahoe, and this Friday they vended at the Ski Run Farmers Market for the first time.

“What I really like about the oven is the simplicity of it. It’s low-tech. It’s the oven. It’s wood. It’s fire. It’s food,” said Kris.

After years of working in construction, Kris decided it was time to return to his culinary roots, which started back in 1995 after he graduated from the California Culinary Academy and worked in a handful of hotel kitchens.

“I got out of the business when we started a family. It’s always something that I’ve wanted to continue to do. This was just the perfect vehicle to get started,” said Kris.

The Johnsons have five children who all love to pitch in with the cooking and customer service.

“We want something for our kids that will always be there for them,” said Kelly.

“It’s definitely a family deal. Food should always be like that,” added Kris.

Food should also revolve around a few quality ingredients, according to Kris.

“It all starts with the dough. Flour, a little bit of yeast, some salt and really good Tahoe tap water. But simple doesn’t mean cheap quality or inexpensive. Simple is actually hard to do well,” said Kris.

This philosophy carries over into the pizza toppings, too.

“The Bee Sting is probably the most popular one that we’ve seen so far. That one starts with a San Marzano tomato sauce, made from scratch, sopressata salami — that fatty salami that’s very tasty — fresh mozzarella, ricotta and chili flakes, all cooked and finished with honey,” explained Kris. “So you get the salty, sweet heat on top of this amazing crust.”

Other crowd pleasers include the Pear-fect Pizza — a sauce-less pie made with fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, sliced pears, pancetta and finished with olive oil — and the Sicilian — doused in tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, Italian sausage, caramelized onions and olives.

“Pizza is where it started, but you can do some many things in there. Roasted vegetables; proteins like shrimp, scallops and salmon; summer squash with burrata cheese, balsamic and fresh basil,” added Kris.

Oven also serves up dessert pizzas, like Nutella, strawberries and chocolate or peach, cinnamon and honey.

In addition to catering private events, the Johnsons hope to spend a portion of their time offering food to the patrons of the numerous breweries that have popped up around the Tahoe Basin.

“Some of them they don’t have kitchens, so our goal is to provide a service of food while people are there enjoying their beer,” said Kelly.

To find out where Oven will be next, follow along on Instagram at @oven_slt or visit

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