Husband-and-wife team are bringing frozen Brazilian-style pizzas to Toronto
We have a plethora of pizza options in Toronto, but a couple from Brazil is entering the fold with a pizza business specializing exclusively in frozen pizza, São Paulo-style.
Paulistana pizzas, which take their name from the inhabitants of Brazil's most populous and pizza-loving city, are the specialty of Marcio and Graziela Marques' new business.
The Markham couple, who are Paulistanos themselves, have just launched Sampa Pizza.
Since January, the pair has gone from making seven vacuum-packed pizzas a week (because good frozen pizza is a thing again) to 60 in their home kitchen.
More recently, they've moved operations to a commercial kitchen, where they've just made a record 300 pies in one month, says Marcio.
"São Paulo is the center of pizza in Brazil," says Marcio, who developed the recipes for the business. "Pizza is very specific to us."
Nearly all of Sampa's customers right now are Brazilians hankering for a taste of home with flavours like the frango, with chicken and Marcio's own Brazilian cream cheese recipe, onion, garlic and paprika.
They're not the only Brazilian pizza game in town (there's at least one other), but the Marques' goal is broaden their reach to people who've never tried Paulistana pizza. It will help when their Instagram account, which is almost exclusively in Portuguese, releases its menus in English.
Thanks to its massive population of Italians (São Paulo is reputed to have the world's biggest Italian community outside of Italy), the city's level of pizza production is near unmatched, except maybe in New York. There were already more than six thousand pizzerias in the city alone as of a decade ago.
What sets Paolistano pizza apart, says Marcio, is its simplicity, despite being loaded with cheese and sauce.
The dough falls somewhere between Neapolitan-style and the thicker New York-style. You'll often find it loaded with ham, pork sausages, or Italian-style Calabrese. You'll see classic Margheritas, but never ingredients like goat cheese or honey.
"It's always fresh tomato sauce, no additives," says Marcio. "The simplest of the pizzas is the São Paulo-style."
There's also a wood-fired element. Marcio says their frozen pizzas, which are bigger than the average at 13.5-inches, capture that signature, smokey taste through a process they're keeping secret.
The Marques' decided to launch Sampa after Graziela lost her job as a cleaner. Marcio had been making pizzas for friends and family for a while and realized that there was enough demand to start something new.
"I said to her, "You know how to cook and I know how to cook. You don't want to spend your time working a low-income job, eight hours a day, for somebody else," he says.
Since then, Graziela has taken over most of the operations, eight hours a day, while Marcio works full-time as a product manager.
The couple takes their orders exclusively through the phone, either by Whatsapp or call-ins.
Right now, Sampa has nine different pizzas available ranging from $18 to $35, the cheapest being a simple mozzarella pie to the most expensive, the Sampa, with fresh mozza, dried tomatoes, capers, olive oil and oregano. They sometimes offer half-half options, too.
Right now, the couple are delivering across the GTA from Thursdays to Saturdays. It's a flat $5 fee to deliver to Markham or Scarborough, $10 to Toronto and beyond. They're also available through the online Brazilian Market.
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