Made a few changes tonight: one minor and one major.
I added some aluminum foil on the front of my setup, leaving just enough space to load the pizza. The difference seemed small, but proved monumental. The temperature on the baking stone was 775deg @ 60min, and 817deg @ 75min. I decided to load the first pizza at this point, although I know the temperature could have gone much higher since the oven had only "registered" 530 out of a possible 550. I went ahead with the bake because frankly this is the highest temperature I've seen so far, and in all honesty was a touch nervous.
The second change was regarding my Ischia starter. I felt it was possibly too acidic, which after much research I've come to understand can affect crust color. I not only was having trouble with pizza coloration, but also with my baguettes. That is what actually convinced me it wasn't completely a temperature problem. I took a small amount of my starter, "cleaned" it, and then decided to go out on a limb and begin refreshing the new batch with AP flour instead of 00. After two days, the difference between the culture fed with AP vs. 00 is astounding! (I will continue feeding both and monitor the differences) I baked bread yesterday with fantastic results, and then made my pizza dough with the AP culture, as well.
The dough handled much, much better than I had anticipated. It had so much more strength, to the point my wife was watching me shape the pizza and she remarked, "Wow, that looks different! It seems much easier to work with!" (BTW, how great is it when you find out they ACTUALLY pay attention!) The bake turned out well. Great taste, texture, and I'm very happy with the results. As far as oven setup, I need to learn the hotspots, and I'm also considering having a smaller soapstone cut to take the place as my bottom baking stone.
Grazie per leggendo!