A 5,000-pound wood-fired oven that came all the way from Guadalajara, Mexico, is the center of El Canton Firewood Pizzeria’s business.
The restaurant was founded outside of Guadalajara in 2011—where it is still open—before a second location opened in Katy on Feb. 19.
El Canton’s pizzas blend Italian and Mexican flavors inspired by owner Carlos Ayala’s and his friends’ world travels.
The first El Canton in Mexico opened when Carlos and his friends had returned home after traveling the world. Carlos was studying international business and he and his friends started their own venture upon their return.
“That’s how El Canton came to [be],” Carlos said. “We started the business kind of from nothing, selling pizzas out of an oven [along with]beer.”
“Since I moved here, my goal was to open up a business here in the states,” Carlos said.
He now owns El Canton in Katy, which is the company’s first U.S. location, with business partner Jorge Pelayo.
El Canton first opened at the intersection of Barker Cypress and Clay roads in 2015. After about three months, Carlos and his team relocated the restaurant to its current location on Mason Road. He said he and his business partners would like to open more locations.
Carlos enlisted the help of his family to get the Katy location up and running, he said.
His mother helps host at the restaurant, and his father and sister helped build its components.
“My family has been an important part of this,” Carlos said.
The sole wood-fired oven used in the restaurant to make pizzas was built by Carlos’ father in Guadalajara.
“It was better for him to build it in his workshop in Mexico,” Carlos said.
After it was built, the oven was then transported from Guadalajara to Laredo. With a forklift and a U-Haul truck, Ayala picked up the oven in Laredo and drove it to Katy. It barely fit through El Canton Katy’s restaurant doors, Carlos said.
Carlos’ sister, Andrea Ayala, who is also an architect, helped design El Canton’s decorative features.
She devised the pizzeria’s intentionally homey feel because El Canton means “home,” where one is from.
The restaurant features chopped wood as a decorative accent both underneath the counters and on a geometric kitchen wall display.
“The wood that we use to cook [with]that was our inspiration,” Andrea said.
El Canton uses oak and pecan wood in its oven, sometimes chopping the wood at home, Carlos said.
Along with its specialty pizzas, the restaurant serves a selection of appetizers, salads, pastas as well as beer and wine. Carlos said he plans to keep changing the menu every six months. When El Canton started in Mexico, the group started off with Mexican recipes and getting customer feedback, he said.
“It’s been like an evolution,” Carlos said.
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El Canton Firewood Pizzeria
981 S. Mason Road, Katy
Hours: Tue.-Thur. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.