Jimmy Crompton and Randy Martin are two successful guys you would not guess run a super successful mobile pizza oven around the countryside. But they do.
You can check it out beginning next week at the Tuesday Night Farmers Market.
We first encountered them outside the tent at the Sonoma International Film Festival a few weeks ago. In a hurry to fly to Napa on my magic carpet to interview a fabulous gelato maker, I stopped desperately at their stand and wood-burning oven and asked how long it would take to get some pizza. 90 seconds. What? And that’s for extra crispy.
(Putting the flat pizza box on the passenger’s seat, I tore out my first piece and chomped into it, stomach growling away. Oh my word! Sensational.)
Who are these guys?
Both Crompton and Martin grew up in Philadelphia and became stockbrokers, eventually both also working as derivative brokers at the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange on behalf of Crompton’s father’s brokerage firm, PTR, Inc.
Martin grew up with his single mom and little brother and had to create meals for his brother and himself out of what he could find in the fridge and cabinets. That’s called creative cooking.
While brokering derivatives in Philly, Martin snuck off to attend Philadelphia Restaurant School, where as he says, “Bobby Flay used to drop in and teach us, before he was Bobby Flay” as we know him on television today.
While the two buddies were still in Philadelphia, a friend asked them to cater her wedding inexpensively and they said sure, having no clue what to do. Overnight Martin produced chicken breasts stuffed with ricotta and spinach with Champagne sauce and roasted baby carrots, to the wedding couple’s delight. To make things funnier, they hired friend Danny to bartend because they figured he drinks the most and should know how to mix a drink and pour wine. And they went out and bought a tray from which to serve the pizzas.
They figured they had the confidence and could figure out how to do whatever they needed to do, and they did. Married to former Swiss Hotel staffer Danielle Reynolds, Crompton says, “We like to get out on a ledge. We’ll figure it out, and have lots of other concepts and plans.”
Martin admits, “We stick to the classic Neapolitan style of pizza, but we do Sonomanize it a little bit.”
Having been exposed to Polish, German, and Italian cooking in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia, Martin liked hanging out at his friend’s grandmother’s, partly because of her pasta and meatballs and wondered how she made her “gravy,” or sauce. He first tried to imitate her “gravy” by opening a can of tomato paste he found in his mother’s kitchen and adding water.
Later in life he needed a peaceful hobby while working in the men-dominated, noisy, and crowded floors of stock exchanges.
Both he and Crompton lusted after the simple life of “making people happy with food.”
As Crompton says, we like to take simple things and make them better and faster.
Crompton likes to check out a location and get the lay of the land, “and do our homework on the location.” He believes in a personal, face-to-face conversation to create interest in their pizza, and his theory has worked. Already they have lined up engagements at several winery and entertainment venues around the Valley, as well as at (even Italian) family homes. “We take our oven to places food trucks can’t get to.”