For Donna and Jamie Hinrichs, serving Roman-style pinsa at their Hampstead pizza restaurant, Oval & Ale, is new twist on longstanding family traditions.
For Jamie and Donna Hinrichs, food and family have always gone hand in hand. Growing up in New York, both spent their earliest days surrounded by large families who taught them that nothing brings people together quite like sharing a great meal with those you love.
Now, as the owners of Hampstead’s newest artisan pizza restaurant, Oval & Ale, the Hinrichs are introducing the Topsail community to a different take on the traditional family meal.
In Jamie’s life, the food industry has always been a family affair. Growing up in a small coastal town quite similar to Hampstead on the east end of Long Island, his childhood centered around a small, close-knit community, amazing boating opportunities, barrier beaches and helping with the family-owned businesses.
“At a young age I started working in my father’s deli, which was my grandfather’s deli before him,” Jamie says. “When the deli was sold, I washed dishes, bussed tables and worked for our family’s food-distribution company.”
For Donna, food held an important role in her Italian upbringing, and many of her best childhood memories involved large family gatherings around the dinner table. She met Jamie in 2006, and the couple soon after
relocated to North Carolina and wed in 2009. They chose Hampstead as the place to start a family because the area’s family-focused coastal community reminded them of home.
Jake and Brian, their two young sons, are the inspiration behind the family’s new restaurant, which opened last year. As parents, Jamie and Donna knew how challenging meals out can be for a family with children and busy schedules. They wanted a place where families could meet friends or grab quick meals after events, all in a casual and fun setting.
As for the food, Jamie credits his older son, Jake, and their time spent together during the start of the pandemic for helping come up with the restaurant’s unique offering, the ancient Roman-style pizza called pinsa. The term comes from the Latin word pinsere, which means “to press or spread by hand,” as in the shape of an oval.
“The ‘Oval’ part of the concept came during COVID, when we were searching for things to do with our boys and came across the story of pinsa,” Jamie says. “After making it a few times, we knew it was an amazing product with potential to be the core of our new venture. We proceeded to make it about 30 times, adjusting our recipe, having Jake take detailed notes and making minor adjustments each time. We sourced flours and kept testing until we knew we had something special.”
At that point, the Hinrichs family began reaching out to pinsa experts and connected with a group from Rome who helped bring their concept together. Pinsa is a soy, rice and whole wheat flour blend. It goes through a long fermentation process, which includes two rises, and is characterized by its crisp, crunchy outside and soft inside.
Jamie says that pinsa’s 80% water-to-flour ratio, along with the longer fermentation process and special flour blend, make it easily digestible and lower in fat, calories and gluten.
“Customers tell us they can finally eat pizza again because our pinsa doesn’t leave them feeling sick,” Jamie says. “Our pinsa crusts boast lower gluten content and imported flour from Italy, enabling many with gluten sensitivities to feel confident eating our crusts on a regular basis.”
He adds, “It’s humbling to hear our pinsa compared to experiences in Rome, because so much work goes into every pinsa, from dough prep to stretching our crusts, to finishing the perfect pinsa for each customer. It’s amazing to know that people look to us for their pizza fix.”
The restaurant’s core menu revolves around pinsa, salad, soup in the colder months and 12 rotating taps from local breweries. In addition to nine signature pinsas along with a build-your-own option, there are specialties like the buffalo chicken, shrimp pesto and portabella burrata pinsas.
“These have quickly become fan favorites, in addition to the prosciutto, meat lover and veggie pinsa,” Jamie says. “We built our menu to offer a variety of flavors, but also to be consistent, fast and fresh.”
Oval & Ale’s welcoming atmosphere is felt as soon as diners arrive. Guests can gather at the bar area and try the new local beer rotations or choose from three different areas to enjoy a meal: the inside dining area, the covered front porch or outside in the pet- and family-friendly picnic area with tables, yard games and a new backyard bar with ice cream and more draft beer selections.
The picnic area is also home to live music every Thursday and Saturday night.
“We really wanted to bring a fresh, fun, healthy and comfortable vibe to town,” Jamie says. “We have guests who love finding their own space on the front porch, and others who want to be front and center inside — and of course many who enjoy the fresh air and open space out back.”
Donna agrees, adding, “We wanted a space where families could feel comfortable going with their children, where neighbors could meet up or meet new people and where teams could gather after a game. Oval & Ale is built on family and community.”
Another thing that makes Oval & Ale unique is the ordering process, something Jamie refers to as “as a niche between full service and fast service.” Guests can order at the counter or from tabletop QR codes, which allow them to place orders and have a drink in minutes. The online order and pay options make it easy for diners to also add more food or beverages when ready, as well as pay and go without waiting on a server to bring a check.
“For those who’d rather skip the tech, we have a great team ready to help and get your order in as quickly as possible from our counter terminals or our backyard bar,” Jamie says.
Although opening a new restaurant during a pandemic has certainly had its challenges, the Hinrichs family is grateful for all the community support and love they have received over the past year. From their hardworking staff to the incredible people they’ve met along the way, both Jamie and Donna feel lucky to serve their community and provide a place for guests to gather, families to celebrate special occasions and people to meet friends both new and old.
As for the future, they say they plan is to continue providing guests with great customer service, delicious food and a place to spend quality time with family and loved ones.
“We have many dreams moving forward,” Jamie says. “One pinsa at a time.”
Want to go?
Oval & Ale
47 S. Hampstead Village, Hampstead