Fresh, seasonal ingredients and innovative methods are the recipe for success at Bentonville’s Oven & Tap
Bowls of fresh arugula, artichokes, olives, and torn mozzarella line the bar of the open kitchen at Oven & Tap. Owners Luke Wetzel and Mollie Mullis alternate chopping herbs and tossing discs of dough, each adding a drizzle of oil here and a handful of sliced peppers there before sliding finished pies in the nearby oven for a couple of minutes. The whole process, start to finish, takes five or so minutes. “Our food is very simple, delicious, and straightforward—there’s nothing extraneous,” Luke says. “We serve a very honest product.”
Before moving to Bentonville in 2012, Luke was working at the revered Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. “That experience certainly had the biggest impact on me, as far as the idea of cooking fresh and seasonally,” he says. However, as a Little Rock native, he was also paying attention to buzz about a growing food scene closer to home. “The more my wife, Katherine, and I heard about Bentonville and thought about the town, the more it became intriguing,” he says. “I fell in love with wood-fired cooking in California, and we moved here in hopes of opening a wood-fired restaurant.”
Luke worked for several years as executive sous chef at The Hive, 21C’s highly regarded restaurant, while “dreaming and planning” his own culinary concept. There, he met and became friends with Mollie, and as his plans for Oven & Tap started to solidify, he approached her about being his partner.
Now looking to celebrate five years in May, the ethos of Oven & Tap has remained true to “honest” food that utilizes the wood-fired oven as much as possible. “We’ve become very creative with what we execute and what we can do in the oven—not just pizzas, but also apps and other entrees,” Luke says, citing examples like wood-fired edamame and rib-eye steak. “The fire forces you to think about food in a different way. It’s very romantic and also challenging.”
Here, the Oven & Tap team shares recipes for two simple, flavorful sauces similar to those used at the restaurant. “What’s pizza without a delicious sauce?” Luke asks. “These are both really simple, but well-seasoned and will complement any pizza.”…