Saskatchewan

700 kilometres for a pizza? Italian-born chef's restaurant a success in tiny Sask. town of Ogema

The couple who started Solo Italia in the town of 400 say people come from far and wide to try their pizza.

The couple who started Solo Italia say people come from far and wide to try their pizza

Marco de Michele in front of the oven that perfects his pizzas. 'In the electric oven, the pizza is yuck, it's not good,' he says. (Adnan Mohamad/SRC)

In a town of only 400 people, Solo Italia is making a name for itself. 

Marco de Michele and Tracey Johnson, the couple who started the restaurant in Ogema, Sask. (population 403, according to Statistics Canada) met in Costa Rica in 2007. They were married shortly after and settled in Italy, where de Michele was born.

But after four years, he wanted a change. 

Tracey Johnson, who is from Ogema, and Marco de Michele met in Costa Rica in 2007. They opened Solo Italia in 2013. (Submitted by Marco de Michele)

"I said [to Tracey] … 'I don't want to die in the same place I was born. Why not go back to your country?'"

They moved to Ogema, where Johnson is from and started Solo Italia in 2013 in the town, 100 kilometres south of Regina.

Marco de Michele enters his restaurant in Ogema. (Adnan Mohamad/SRC)

After a while, de Michele felt something was missing.

"In the electric oven, the pizza is yuck, it's not good," he said. 

So de Michele built his own authentic wood-fired Italian pizza oven, with some of the materials coming directly from Italy. 

A look inside the wood-fired pizza oven. (Adnan Mohamad/SRC)

Customers from far and wide

Customer Bill Fidyk came from Sundre, Alta. — more than 700 kilometres away — to try the pizza. He said his daughter gave him a book that mentioned the pizza place. 

"As I read through it, [it] talked about the best pizza in the world," he said. 

"There are people also driving from the United States just to eat a pizza," de Michele said. 

Bill Fidyk came from Sundre, Alta. — more than 700 kilometres away — to try the pizza. (Adnan Mohamad/SRC)

Some people were told by friends in Regina they had to stop in if they were passing through. One man from Indian Head, about 140 kilometres away, said he comes for the dough. 

De Michele also has a delivery truck that ships the product out to places around Saskatchewan.

After five years in Saskatchewan, he said he hopes for continued success. 

"One day we sold out to La Ronge," he said. (That'd be more than 600 kilometres north.)

"One day, maybe to the North Pole."

With files from Adnan Mohamad

A pizza is prepped at Solo Italia. (Adnan Mohamad/SRC)
Crafting a pizza at Solo Italia. (Adnan Mohamad/SRC)

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