Pizzeria dreams: Quest for the authentic wood fired pizza

By Andru McCracken


Jessica Way and Ryan Halliday stand in front of their future place of business, the old IDA building on 5th Avenue in Valemount. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

What do you get when you take wood from the community forest, mozzarella from Quebec, veggies and mushrooms from local growers, flour and tomatoes from Italy and craft beer and wine from around the province? A neapolitan style wood fired pizzeria, of course.

It is the brainchild of husband and wife team Ryan Halliday and Jessica Way. The couple is wrapping up their oilfield safety company in Fox Creek, Alberta and are moving to Valemount.

Valemount’s sense of community, lack of crime and its beauty has charmed them.

The couple has been coming to Valemount to mountain bike and snowmobile for three years and they recently bought a home. They were first introduced to community by the late Tony Parisi, who ran Snowfarmers, a snowmobile guiding company.

Halliday said changes in the oil industry helped them realize it was time to do something new. So the two have decided to open a pizzeria at the old IDA spot next to the liquor store in Valemount.

It’s no accident that it is across the street from Three Ranges Brewing. Halliday and Way believe their restaurant will be a great place for folks to go when the brewery has closed.

“We developed a relationship with people in town just by being here and snowmobiling and going to the brewery,” said Way.

Halliday knew that they’d have to chart their own course if they were going to stay, because they couldn’t see themselves taking jobs here.

“We had to come up with our own idea,” he said.

They looked at a number of different opportunities: building a gas station on the highway, a bakery, buying any number of existing businesses, but ultimately, those things didn’t spark their imagination the way the pizzeria did.

“I wanted something I could really get behind passionately,” Halliday said.

“We’re ready for a new challenge, something to be passionate about again,” added Way.

Their first step to developing a neapolitan style pizzeria? Going to Italy to learn the craft for themselves in person.

The two have enrolled in a course that will ultimately lead to an ‘authentic’ designation, something relatively few restaurants in Canada can claim.

Halliday said that the Italians noticed that many people were coming to Italy to learn how to make wood fired pizza and then taking the idea home.

“They realized they had something they could trademark,” said Halliday. “You can do wood-fired ‘whatever you want’ but you can’t say it’s authentic unless you take the school and supply all of what they say.”

Way said that idea is to strive for the best.

“We want to do everything as fresh, as local as possible,” said Way.

Way brings years of restaurant experience to the operation.

“I have managed, supervised and waitressed since I was 15 years old and I’ve done it all over Canada – in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and now BC,” she said.

They are planning to open June 1st.

Halliday knows it will be a challenge and he expects some slow nights.

“People are saying it’s going to be hard. That’s all relative to your situation. We’re coming from something that wasn’t very easy all the time,” he said. “This is like stress relief.”

Fox Creek has a population of 2000. But the couple doesn’t mind moving to a smaller place.

“We love the community here,” said Way. “That feeling you get when you drop 20 bucks and somebody will give it back? We just love it here.”

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