Mario Spina Pimento Mobile Pizzeria

‘You get excited. Italians do a lot of screaming’

How is your business different from pizza delivery?

I bring the oven right to your house. So when it’s -40 C outside you are still getting a hot fresh pizza right out of the oven.

What inspired you to start a pizzeria on wheels?

It started off by a dare by Walter at Mr. Cappuccino. He supplied me with the wood-burning oven. It was funny how it all came together because Albert from Benny’s Bakery had an old delivery van and he gifted it to me. So that’s how it all started.

What kind of wood do you use in your oven?

I try to use apple as much as I can or pear or cherry — any fruit wood. It burns hotter and longer.

Why do you knock $1 off of a pizza if the customer brings out his or her own plate?

I’m trying to reduce the carbon footprint. If they are going to eat it anyway why do they need the box? And because the pizza’s so good sometimes I say ‘Bring out your own cutting board.’ And I just cut it right on the board and it’s ready to go.

Your van reads ‘Van Gough.’ Why is that?

I used to own a pizzeria with my brother and best friend in Bridgeland called that. Then I sold my shares.

What areas do you deliver in?

Bridgeland and Renfrew. It’s always been the Italian district for me and I know everybody personally in this area because I live in the area.

On average how many pizzas do you make each week?

I just work Fridays and Saturdays. That’s with my pizza van. I also do in-house private dining. I go to people’s houses and entertain them with seven-course meals.

Are they Italian?

The customers aren’t but the food is. I work part-time with a homebuilder and every time he sells a $1-million house it’s a housewarming gift and I go over and cook for a bunch of their friends.

How many varieties of pizzas do you have and what kind of toppings do you offer?

Seventeen. Nutella and anchovies with garlic – that’s an all-time favourite for Italians.

Do you eat pizza?

All the time.

What’s your favourite?

I’m allergic to cheese. I think that’s my curse but it keeps me slim. I enjoy mostly the marinara with fresh tomato sauce with a little garlic – very simple very clean — and I do favour roasted vegetables. I’m all for that also.

How did you learn to make pizza?

I went to Naples to see how their version of it is. After the pizzeria opened I went to investigate to see what they are doing. I’ve had a wood-burning oven for 25 years. I should have been with the apes and what they were doing with the hot stone.

What’s your biggest money-maker?

The money is in carnivals like the folk fest. There’s lots of people there. I don’t charge much for a small pizza — $5 or $7 or $10 for the best quality ingredients. I also do hockey and football parties. Sometimes I have people running up to the van asking for ice cream.

Describe what’s inside your pizza van.

I have a wood-burning oven and a prep table a compartment sink a stainless steel counter on which I open my dough on. And that’s it.

Do you knead your own dough?

Absolutely. I have a small dough mixer.

What do you think of Gord Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen ? Do you find him abusive?

He is.

Would you go on the show and have him swearing and yelling at you?

Yes I would. Because when I was in fine dining and I was in the kitchen I was the same way. You don’t swear and curse at people because you don’t like them. It’s just part of the flow it’s part of the training. It’s inner emotions coming out — the passion. You get excited. Italians do a lot of screaming.

You used to own Pimento’s Italian Café downtown. When and why did it close?

I made the decision to throw in the towel over a year ago. It was right at the west end of the C-Train tracks at the end of downtown. And people when they go for lunch they don’t walk to the end of the tracks. They go for the centre. We just couldn’t grab the people consistently.