Timmins’ newest pizzeria should have pizza lovers all fired up.
Sparks Pizza brings the goodness of wood-fired pizza to the city with a heart of gold.
The new restaurant is owned and operated by Tim and Lisa Jamieson.
“Lisa created the name Sparks Pizza,” he explained. “We were trying to come up with an original name that sounded happy, something that had relevance to our wood-fired pizza.
“The sparks come from the wood, from the embers, with sparks flying in the air. That’s why there is a big flame at the top of our logo as well.”
But the creation of Sparks Pizza didn’t come overnight. It is the result of careful life planning and a true love of cooking.
“Before I opened Sparks, I worked 16 years for Acklands Grainger as a national account business manager,” Jamieson said. “So, I travelled across the country and down to Chicago, stuff like that, managing large accounts.
“My passion is cooking. Before I went to university, I went to cooking school and I graduated from the Cordon Bleu de Paris with a diploma in French cuisine. I worked in restaurants while I was in cooking school for about four to five years. I just love cooking.
“I decided to start a family with my wife. So, we got married and started a family. I thought I would work in business for a while. The restaurant business can be tough when you have kids, with the hours you work. I always told myself when I hit 45, I was retiring from the corporate world and doing what I wanted.”
Long before opening the restaurant, Jamieson had a love for wood-fired pizza.
“It has always been my favourite,” he said. “I was an exchange student over in Germany back in high school and we did a lot of travelling around Europe. I found the best pizza and the greatest food experience was while I was in Italy. We spent about three weeks biking around, travelling across Italy and I just loved the pizza. It’s always been my personal favourite.
“French cuisine, I didn’t figure was going to be a good fit for Timmins. Fine dining is just not the atmosphere here. But pizza is one of those foods that 97 per cent of people in the world love. It is literally that high in statistics.”
His plan was to bring a unique pizza product to the city.
“So, I wanted to bring a different type of pizza and fresh, higher quality ingredients to Timmins,” Jamieson said. “I figured it would do well and, so far, it’s been an excellent response.”
The oven is a key member of the Sparks team.
“It is directly from Naples, Italy,” he said. “The oven itself, inside the refractory stone is specially made in Naples. Every single piece is made in Naples. It came over on a boat in two big wooden crates. Two gentlemen from the manufacturer came down and put it together here on site.
“The oven itself is both gas and wood. It’s a combination oven. You take the old style of wood burning and you add gas just to regulate your temperature, so you don’t get too hot and burn all your pizzas.”
He is even choosy about the type of wood used to fire up the oven.
“The wood itself is a red oak and it comes from a gentleman down on Pine Street, Samuel Bertrand,” Jamieson said. “He supplies all the red oak for the business.”
To make the pizza authentic, it is all homemade. None of the key components are delivered pre-made.
“Everything, except for maybe the pepperoni and the salami, is made in-house,” he said. “When it comes to the dough, everything is made from scratch.
“We use a blend of two different Italian styles, the Neapolitan style, but we also take a few hints from the Classica style, which is more of what the Italians in their homes would make. It just adds a little more crispiness and the only reason for that is it allows it to be deliverable, versus the true Neapolitan which would be too soft and running that it couldn’t make the journey to be delivered.”
Next comes the sauce.
“The sauce as well is all made from scratch,” he said. “San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, at the end of the day it’s all made from scratch.”
Toppings for a masterpiece also need to be as fresh as possible.
“The toppings, things like roasted garlic. We take whole garlic cloves and roast them,” Jamieson said. “Bacon, we cook daily. None of that prefab bacon. We slice our own bacon up and cook it in the wood-fired oven.
“Down to cutting every single vegetable by hand, none of it is mechanically done.
“The sausage itself is our own Italian handmade sausage we do here in-house. It’s a loose sausage we put on the pizza. It’s our own secret blend of herbs and spices for our Italian sausage.”
While customers can custom order a build-your-own pie, there are several house specialties catering to a variety of tastes.
There is the traditional margherita, the pepperoni, the prosciutto, the salsiccia and the Canadian. There is also the Hawaiian, the India (featuring a curry sauce), the Greek, and the carnivore, featuring sausage, bacon, pepperoni and Italian salami.
“Currently, it’s a 12 and 16-inch pizza we offer, I think other places call it a medium and extra large,” Jamieson said. “We cut it into bigger slices because the type of pizza it is, it is actually meant to be folded when you eat it (more so than a New York) you actually fold the two sides and push the tip in. When you eat it by hand, that’s how you would eat it. You can also eat it with a knife and fork, which is the more traditional way.
“We will be offering a personal-sized pizza in the next few weeks, just during lunchtime. We’re going to have a lunchtime special where someone can get a personal pizza and a pop for a fixed price. They will be pre-made, probably within a half hour of you picking it up. More of a grab-and-go for the downtown community that has a half an hour for lunch.”
The wood-fired oven runs hotter than electric, and also adds a different flavour and texture to pizza.
“North American pizza is very crispy,” he said. “It’s cooked at a lower temperature for a longer period. Here, they add sugars into the flour to add browning on the outside. None of that is the same with Italian pizzas. It will have a crisp on the outside, but it’s a very soft dough on the inside.
“The tomato sauce is not cooked (ahead), it is cooked on the pizza, so it’s actually fresh tomatoes going on. The type of tomato is very sweet, so no sugar needs to be added. It’s very flavourful. It’s a different type of tomato than everyone else uses.
“We use different types of cheeses, all Italian cheeses as well as a Fior Di Latte, which is a fresh mozzarella. It gives it almost a creamy flavour.
“There will be charring on the outside. The wood fire and the heat does create a bit of a char on the outside and a nice browning on the cheese as well. It’s quite the delicacy.”
He encourages people to come into the restaurant to order or use the Sparks website.
“You can order for both pickup and delivery. You can set yourself a pickup time. So, if you finish work at five and you want it ready by five, you can go online, place your order and we’ll have it ready at five o’clock," he said.
"If you’re a bit late, no worry, we have a full heater that keeps it at a very hot temperature. It keeps the food safe and keeps the food hot. It also has humidity in it so it doesn’t dry out your pizza.
“As well, you can order on Skip the Dishes and Door Dash. We do take phone orders as well for pickup. Currently, during the busy times, from about 4:30 to 6:30, unfortunately we don’t have the staff to man the phones as we’re very busy preparing pizzas.”
After all the years of planning, the Jamiesons are enjoying every minute of the pizzeria.
“I’m loving it. Cooking has always been my passion,” Jamieson said. “Running a business kind of just falls in line with my previous experience. The employees we have are exceptional. We’ve all been having a great time. It’s been some long hours, but we do hope to, in the near future, to extend our business hours as well.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure with all the positive response from the people in Timmins. We really hope everybody enjoys it and that we can create a new experience for everybody here in Timmins.”
Sparks Pizza is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is located at 206 Third Ave. in Timmins.