I received a note from Mike (Essen1) this afternoon about a Facebook exchange he had with Tony G, who is currently in Italy, about the use of pizza screens at his slice shop as opposed to baking the pizzas directly on the deck. Tony's response was in two parts:
So much volume at one time. Can't keep up. Like the ballpark.. At Tonys in North Beach we go directly on the stone. Really depends on the location and layout
It's all about timing and getting it off the screen early enough. Not cooking it all the way on the screen. 40% screen and 60% stone
Given the unique nature of Tony's slice business, it does make sense under the circumstances to use pizza screens. With pizza screens, you don't need to have experienced oven tenders, or workers using peels to load the pizzas in the ovens. So the throughput, which is critical in a high volume situation, should be faster. Also, as Mike previously pointed out, using screens avoids or minimizes the use of semolina or other peel agents that can mess up the oven and require frequent cleaning, which can slow down the throughput of the oven. I guessed right on how I thought Tony was baking his pizzas on the screens but I did not know at which point the pizzas were "decked" onto the stones of the oven. It looks like he decks the pizzas after about 40 percent of the bake. At that point, the pizzas should be firm but still allow for plenty of time to get good bottom crust browning and a crispier crust. Many places keep the screens in the oven until the pizza is almost completely baked.
As in any business, there are tradeoffs. But what Tony is doing strikes me as reasonable.