Every day is Pi Day for Josh and Amelia Stoddart, who opened Full Circle Pizza & Oyster Bar just before Christmas in the 17th Avenue space that was most recently Bensonhurst, rebranding the wood-fired oven with their own pi logo in mosaic tile.
Josh was born and raised in Calgary and Amelia grew up in Busby, a small community north of Edmonton.
The two have worked — together and not — in kitchens and front of house at restaurants around the city for decades, meeting at the Palliser and most recently working together at Sugo in Inglewood.
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"My very first job was at Papa John's when they first opened in Canada when I was about 14," said Josh. "That's where I learned to slap pizza dough out."
From there he moved to the front of house, bussing and serving at various restaurants before attending SAIT and making his way back into the kitchen.
He cooked at Il Sogno and Capo, working in fine dining before meeting and marrying Amelia and moving out to Galliano Island to run a small boutique hotel.
From there the couple hopped over to Salt Spring for a year before heading back with two young kids, Frankie and Alice, to be closer to family and friends.
Opening a place of their own
There are things they miss about living — and cooking — on the Gulf Islands, like the culinary garden that grew year-round just outside the kitchen.
"I miss milking a cow once a week," Josh says, "and raising chickens, and tossing the crab trap in on the way to work and then pulling it back in when we came home. But we're so glad to be back in Calgary, and there's so much going on in the food scene here."
They returned to Sugo about five years ago — Amelia having been in and out of the kitchen for about 12 years — but eventually wanted to open a place of their own.
"We knew we wanted to do pizza, and to get away from the higher-end cuisine that we were used to. We wanted a restaurant that was more approachable, with a more reasonable price point," Josh said.
They searched for about a year and a half — almost renting the old Vicious Circle space where they had their first date — before their friends Tim and Dave at Wine Ink let them know the old Bensonhurst space had become available across the street. It even had a wood-fired pizza oven.
Amelia's dad, a stone mason, did some brick work around it as part of the new overhaul.
With so much kitchen space and an oversized bar, Amelia and Josh decided they needed to do more than just pizza.
They started to bring in fresh oysters from Eric Giesbrecht, Calgary's oyster man, thinking it would give people the option to stop in for drinks and oysters or pizza, and were surprised to find that most guests, like them, order a round of oysters before their pizza.
Along with classics like the margherita and coppa cabana (ham and pineapple), they offer some with more creative toppings, like the Octo-Pi, topped with braised octopus, corn and bonito flakes, the pea ti pi, made with green peas, pea tendrils, prosciutto cotta and scamorza cheese, and the vegan pi, with edamame, zucchini, fennel, carrot and a miso vinaigrette.
Between their unique pies and appetizers, an interesting cocktail menu and well crafted wine list, along with a rotating selection of seasonal west and east coast oysters, they've created a different pizza experience.
Today they're celebrating Pi Day (3.14) by inviting Calgarians down for an open house celebration — and belated grand opening — with free pizza, oysters, appetizers, drink specials and door prizes from 5 p.m. until midnight.
"It's fun branding things around pie instead of just pizza," Josh said. "We like playing on the math theme."
"We like to keep it nerdy, with the suspenders and bow ties. We're quite nerdy about food and wine, so we want to share that."
The Full Circle Pizza & Oyster Bar is located at #100 933 17 Ave SW, 587-351-3141, fullcirclepizza.ca, @fullcirclepi