THE comforting aroma of a wood-fired oven, the crunch of a perfectly crisp crust and the tangy taste of fresh tomato, herbs and gooey cheese...

We have come to terms with multiple privations over the past year’s interminable series of lockdowns and tier restrictions, but it’s often the little things we miss the most – like the sensory delights of a well-made pizza.

But help is at hand for those craving a flavoursome Neopolitan-style treat from a clutch of Oxford pubs – and it has come just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Dodo Pubs, which runs the Rusty Bicycle in Magdalen Road, The Rickety Press in Jericho and The Up in Arms in Marston, are cooking their trademark wood-fired oven creations before cooling and wrapping them for diners to finish off at home.

And they taste every bit as the fresh product.

“Pizza is something we do really well. We just needed to work out how to get it into peoples ovens at home,” says Leo Johnson, the engaging co-founder of Dodo Pub Co, who is now distributing the pizzas from Oxford to the rest of the country.

Read more: BBuona pizza restaurant is Tripadvisor #1 in Oxford

“We have a load of wood-fired pizza ovens not getting much use during lockdown and we were looking to diversify. So, in the first lockdown we developed our ‘nearly cooked’ wood-fired Homebake pizza concept and realized it was pretty special when compared to other pizzas out there on the home-cook market.

“Our focus in the subsequent lockdowns was to develop a postal model that could get the pizzas quickly and safely to people’s doorsteps and raise awareness before trying to let the world know about it.”

Read more: The iconic cafe keeping customers smiling in lockdown

Pizzas are made using the classic Neapolitan recipe from high quality ingredients. Chefs at the pubs handmake the dough and then allow it to rise for 48 hours, before blasting it in their 400c wood-fired oven to ‘almost cook’ the base before rapidly cooling (to avoid the twice cooked taste).

Once cool the bases are then topped with such delights as chorizo, pepperoni, mushroom and truffle oil or simply cheese and basil, before being vacuum sealed for freshness.

The Up in Arms pub has started producing pizzas you can bake at home. Pizza Chef Thomas Curtis is pictured with his creations. Picture by Ed Nix


Vegan options include ‘No’duja’ – an alternative to the Calabrian sausage, the No’duja is cooked in-house combining jackfruit, smoked chipotle and spices.

All customers need to do is pop them in the oven for up to eight minutes – close their eyes – and imagine they are sitting, if not in Naples, then their favourite Oxfordshire pizza place.

Leo says: “They are the same pizzas we create in-house in every way except for the way we cook them

“Where possible all produce is local, but if the quality isn’t matched by that which we can get from Italy, we have an Italian supplier who handles the speciality stuff.

Read more: Pizzeria heads top 10 restaurants in Oxford on Tripadvisor

“Andrew Holland our kitchen director, sets the processes, recipes, and standards. However, Tom Curtis the head chef at the Up in Arms is the guy spinning the pizzas right now. He’s a nice guy and very talented.

“We’re immensely proud of the whole kitchen team though, because it doesn’t matter which pub you’re in you’ll always receive the same quality product set out by Andy and executed by the team.”

He adds: “Every pizza is made to order for each and every delivery and, so far, they’ve been going down really well. For those that have tried then, we are getting loads of returning custom; which is always a great sign. It’s just a matter of letting people know.”

Pizza Chef Thomas Curtis with the finished products

Pizza Chef Thomas Curtis with the finished products

And, he says, they are perfect for a 'special' night in, laughing: “It means less time cooking, more time spent loving!” he laughs. And they’re restaurant-quality cooked at a time convenient for you.”

He said times had been tough over the past year, but the pizzas were a perfect way of bringing in money while keeping spirits high among punters unable to pop in for a pizza and a pint.

Read more: Which pubs and restaurants near you made it into this year's Michelin Guide

“We’re a hospitality business so as you can imagine it’s been tough going over the past year,” he said.

“But as a business, we’re well-positioned to push through this pandemic. For this reason, we’ve remained optimistic finding time to work on our internal systems and brand model so that when we do eventually reopen, Dodo will be better than ever.”

And will they continue after lockdown?

“This really depends on a number of factors, but our ambition is a firm ‘yes!’ Our challenge is to reach the volumes required to turn it into a side business before lockdown ends.”

  • The pizzas start at £6.50
  • Order at Collection is available from the Up in Arms, seven days a week – or delivered locally by Pedal & Post

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