If you’re driving up-Island toward the Cliffs on State Road in Aquinnah, you may miss the Orange Peel Bakery sign on your left just before Lobsterville Road – unless it’s late afternoon on a Wednesday from May to October. If it is, you’ll see cars parked on the side of the road and a knot of people gathered in the yard, because it’s Pizza Night, and because people are hungry for both food and sociality.

At the center of that knot is a massive ten-by-ten-by-ten-foot stone igloo, made from 12,000 pounds of terre blanche, “white earth” clay, which was shipped from France in pieces and built on-site. Few home businesses require so imposing a piece of equipment as the wood-eating, fire-breathing La Panyol oven, the heart of the Orange Peel Bakery (OP). But the owner, baker Julianne Vanderhoop, never thought of the OP simply as a home business – to her it was much bigger, a necessary catalyst for gathering community.

“One of the reasons why – one of the main reasons why – I built this oven is to try to give something to the town, something that’s been lost that I remember from thirty or forty years ago,” Julianne says. “We lost that sense of community, knowing our neighbors, and being able to take the time to be with your neighbors. When I moved back to town and people were saying, ‘Go for select person, go for select person,’ I said no, this is my solution: no politics – just bread.”

Juli grew up in town with her mother, Anne Vanderhoop Madison, and her late stepfather, Luther Madison, running the Aquinnah Shop restaurant on the Cliffs – which she now supplies with her bakery products. The cornerstone of the OP’s business is wood-fire–baked artisanal breads, which means more than 50 percent of the making is by hand. One day recently the offerings were five-grain bread, cinnamon raison loaf, rosemary bread with olive oil, and baguettes.

Making an art of baking bread takes patience, skill, and, says Juli, “There’s a difference when you really pay attention to it. Most people don’t think about it, but if you are at a restaurant for dinner, first thing, the breadbasket arrives at the table. If you’ve got a nice piece of bread, it sets off the mood for the whole table and brings it together. If the bread is good, the table’s excited.”

On a non-pizza day, the wood fire is lit in the oven at 4 a.m., the bread baking will begin at 7 at the latest, and finish by 1 or 2 p.m. A day’s bake may also include cookies, muffins, and “snail” pastries – things that classify as a pick-it-up-on-the-way-to-work breakfast.

Her products leave town in mass as well: This year she was consigned by the West Tisbury Farmer’s Market to provide one hundred loaves twice a week for Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Grange Hall. But it’s the Wednesday night pizza potluck that is the gathering time.

What goes on at Pizza Night? Well, to get the business out of the way, there’s a suggested donation of $10 for all the pizza you can eat. Mix and match whatever toppings you bring to the table with what others have brought to design your own gourmet pizza. Foodie Jan Buhrman of Kitchen Porch catering may drop by with some home-cured pork sausage, or a recently made cheese from Chilmark. Along with sharing her front yard and outdoor oven, Juli also makes the dough. Others might bring wine or beer to share. Brian O’Gorman of Aquinnah will have his guitar with him, adding rhythm and song while you’re waiting for your creation to come sliding out on a wooden peel from the oven’s maw. Peel, that’s right: the paddle bakers use to move the dough in and out of the oven – like the orange-painted one that is the OP’s sign.

Craig Hockmeyer, of Aquinnah and Tisbury’s Craig’s Bicycles, is often manning the peel. He helped with the building of the oven, and doesn’t consider himself a baker, but he acts like one on Pizza Night. He got a feel for it after picking up the peel a few times last year to help when Juli was talking with customers and friends. By this point, he has refined his pizza skills and is really handy to have around. But if he is off chatting or eating, someone else is sure to be eager to wield the peel, and Juli is happy to instruct.

There’s also the position of dough wrangler, for those who want to get their hands white. Someone has to take the balls of risen dough and make them flat to receive your toppings. And with a bit of instruction, it could be you. This is a restaurant under the sky, where the community is in the kitchen.