by Beverly Ann D’Cruz
When Sandi and Mick Stoyan decided to start Mickey’s Pizza on Lakeshore Road West in Mississauga, they knew it would mean long hours and tiring days. What they weren’t prepared for was the barrage of compliments that their pizza received. Some customers have returned the same day after picking up their order to thank them, several patrons often call in their gratitude, while others have driven from as far as Guelph, Muskoka and Oshawa for a taste.
And the positive response is no surprise considering the Stoyan’s business plan – to serve quality pizzas made with fresh ingredients at an affordable price. “Every single pizza that we put out there we want it to be the best pizza that we can give you,” says Sandi. “And we are hoping our customers can taste the quality and the difference. You can eat anything you want but it’s better to eat something that you enjoy, that is tasty and more natural.” To back up their claim, a small board sits on the counter chalked with the promise of ‘…the best pizza you have had in your life. Period.’
Without a doubt, Sandi and Mick’s passion for what they do is palpable. The pizza dough is made from scratch – a product of Mick’s experimentation every Saturday night for the past 20 years. Baked to a golden brown, it has a rich yeast flavour and sweet finish and tastes wonderful on its own – sans any sauce or toppings. To perfect Mick’s recipe, the couple continued to play around with different flours for a further two months. “We’re finally pleased where it is at now,” adds Sandi.
Customers have a choice of Miami (thin crust; from $7), Chicago (deep-dish; from $7) or stuffed pizza (from $13), that’s bursting with a filling of cheese and either steak or spinach. Their pizza sauce is a secret family recipe made from fresh tomatoes and five kinds of cheese, including Asiago, Bocconcini and Cheddar, are grated daily to make their own blend. To pick the right pepperoni it took nine samples to find the perfect one – Italian-style without any MSG and preservatives.
“We’re really picky,” adds Sandi with a smile. “It is a balance between getting quality ingredients and keeping it affordable for regular people. We don’t want it to be too expensive and start putting things like truffles on it, then the pricing would go through the roof. There is always more you can do in terms of making your ingredients more exotic but we want to keep it a quality product the average person can enjoy.”
Toppings range from home-made meatballs and barbecued chicken that are grilled in-house to a range of vegetables and bacon. And the best part? You can as many of the 21 toppings on your pizza without any extra charge. “In fact, we had one customer who came in for lunch and added every topping we had and it turned out to be a really high pizza,” adds Mick laughing. “He loved it so much, he brought his friend back the same day and made him build the exact same pizza.”
As customers choose their pizza and toppings, Sandi and Mick chat away with them like they’re old friends. This communication is crucial for them as it helps them cater exactly to what the customer desires. Their unique Hickory Visual Pizza Oven is the only one in Canada. It has a rotating cast iron base and customers can not only watch their pizza bake right before their eyes but also specify how they want it cooked. To add to the live show, Mick tends to the pies with a paddle and the smooth dexterity of a professional ensuring every pizza is cooked through perfectly.
“We wanted something that was visually attractive and for people to have more control over what they are getting,” explains Sandi. “Our pizzas are built and baked right in front of you so you can add what toppings you want or have it baked to the doneness you like. You can say, ‘That’s my pizza, can you give it another lap around so that it’s crispy? That is how I like it.’ So we are there servicing you and you are interacting with us and in turn have your meal the way you like it.”
Despite several initial teething problems and rare days off, the one thing you’ll notice is that Sandi and Mick are always smiling. Their cheerful demeanour is even reflected on the walls painted a vibrant yellow. As customers come and go, many stop to admire the cheerful dragon mascot staring down at them with slogans like ‘Feed Your Dragon’, ‘Love your Dragon’ and ‘Follow Your Dragon’ emblazoned across the pictures. The story and motto were conceptualised by Sandi and she also created the artwork that now hangs in the restaurant. But why a dragon? Wouldn’t that invoke images of Chinese food?
“I knew from the start I wanted a chubby, pizza loving and eating dragon,” says Sandi. “So the story is that a young pizza maker in Italy went for a walk in the hills and thought he saw some smoke following him. Thinking it was a volcano, he went back home. The next morning he found an orphaned dragon in the oven. She had smelt him and he smelled good and looked kind so she followed him and crawled up in his oven where it was warm and she went to sleep. And he fell in love with her, named her Mickey and they came together to have their own friendship. So we say she sleeps in the oven and helps fire the pizza oven.”
A board by the oven reads ‘Shhh, the dragon is sleeping in the oven’ keeping the story alive, much to the amusement of adults and delight of children who wait for a peek at Mickey. However, the slogan ‘Feed Your Dragon’ stands for much more than just a gimmicky catch phrase. “When I hand someone their pizza, I want them to feel like we are nurturing them and we try and do that through the food,” says Sandi. “What we mean when we say ‘feed your dragon’ is feed yourself, ‘love your dragon’ is love yourself and ‘follow your dragon’ is follow the dragon we all have within us.”
And as long as Sandi and Mick throw in some pizza with that mantra, it doesn’t look like any patrons will be complaining about that philosophy.
Mickey’s is having a TweetUp to raise funds for The World Food Programme on Sunday, September 26. See http://twtvite.com/FeedYourDragon2 for details.