PIZZA! Wood-Fired Neapolitan Pies Coming to South Woodstock This Summer

Innkeeper Luke Underwood and others learned to make the pies at pizza school in New York.

Amble across the porch at Kedron Valley Inn, grab a cold beer and eat your pie right there

Craving a Neapolitan-style pizza made with Vermont Farmstead mozzarella, local arugula and crispy prosciutto? Later this summer, the family who’s remaking the Kedron Valley Inn in South Woodstock will have the wood-fired pies for you.

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Just don’t expect to order that meal to go.

“It loses all its character and nuance unless you eat it immediately,” said Luke Underwood, innkeeper and business manager for the enterprise.

Don’t worry; there will be plenty of room to sit, have a cold beer and enjoy that pizza — on the 1828 inn’s broad porch, in a dining room filled with funky antique tables and at the bar inside the renovated Ransom’s Tavern.

“The idea is for it to be a locals spot” as well as a place for inn guests, says Simran Johnston, who grew up in town and whose hotelier family spent $3.4 million last year to buy the inn, South Woodstock Country Store, the Kedron Valley Farm and the former Grange Hall.

“There really isn’t any pizza like this around here,” said Johnston, who first came upon Neapolitan pizza while living in Brooklyn after college. “Kids can eat it and high-end foodies can eat it.”

Lead pizza chef Rob Ray perfects his technique.

The pizza is distinguished by a crust baked in a high-temperature (as high as 900 degrees) oven from dough that isn’t stretched or tossed but is, instead, shaped by hand. The pies are then topped with light sauce and cheese and ingredients ranging from traditional meats and veggies to Vermont flavors including maple and apple.

Underwood and lead chef Rob Ray and other kitchen staff members recently went to New York City to learn at a pizza school run by Roberto and Giorgia Caporuscio, a father-daughter team recognized as leaders in the technique. After baking mountain ranges of pies, they got their credentials and headed back to South Woodstock.

When can we stop by for a pie? Most likely late July or early August, says Underwood. There’s construction work to complete and permits to secure, and they want to get everything just so.

Simran Johnston and Luke Underwood in front of the new oven, just off the boat from Italy.

Prices? Pies will range from around $14 to the mid-$20s, and diners can also order antipasto, salads, dessert and drinks.  

One other thing: Everything on the menu — from pizza to chocolate cake right down to salad croutons — will be available gluten-free. The gluten-free pies will come from a separate oven, part of an effort to serve diners who struggle to find good places to eat out. 

“My family has several people with severe gluten allergies,” Johnston said. “Eating out is really hard.”

The pizza project is part of a broader reset on the inn, which the family took over last fall. The 15 rooms range from $179/night mid-week to the high $300s in the peak summer and early fall season.

In recent months, the buildings and grounds have been abuzz with local carpenters, masons, landscapers and others. Underwood says, “The hands and sweat of all this great work has come from people who live in the area.”


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