Having just moved to the island from Alberta a few months ago, I’m taken aback by the beauty of the drive as we make our way to the pizzeria. Navigating through each curve in the road, I see the ocean peeking through the trees, little cabins in the woods, and forest stretching as far as the eye can see.
Once we arrive at the parking lot, the first thing I notice is a small gated garden where fresh rosemary, strawberries, and thyme are growing (to name a few). The weather has been off and on all morning, but it seems that the storm has finally passed and the sun suddenly lights up the whole area. Turning my head to the right, I see a pile of freshly cut wood ready for the oven.
Before I can even walk through the doors, I am eagerly greeted by Jim Symington, one of the owners of the restaurant. He instantly takes me upstairs to the rooftop patio where he shows off his latest design – a beautifully hand-crafted table with matching bench to go with it. He builds everything on the property in a wood workshop underneath the restaurant.
Once we’ve finished our tour of the property, we make our way back into the main dining room – a great open space with the production area right in the centre of the room. Stoked is not only a great place to get lunch after a long morning in the sun, it can also be a stop on your way to a camping trip. Forgot the firewood at home? No worries. They’ve got your back. On one wall is a small market area where one can get anything they may need for a trip, as well as a selection of hand-crafted items from the Shirley community including Livin’ the Dream Farm and Foggy Mountain Forge.
According to Co-Owner Meagan (who just so happens to be Jim’s daughter), this restaurant was all made possible thanks to the support from the community where it is located. Not only was the bar-top donated to them, one member of the Shirley community who is a painter provided advice on the project and even helped them secure paint. The Fire Department also helped with installing the beautiful wood-burning oven brought in straight from California. All other wood that was used in the building was recycled from materials they found on site or old fencing that was given to them by family members.
Meagan and her boyfriend Oliver (who is also a Co-Owner) run the kitchen and collaborated with Jim to develop the menu. Both have an academic background in international development and environmental science, however; on one faithful road trip, they came to the realization that the pizza they were making at home was not only as good but perhaps better than the options that were available to them for dining out, and that’s when the idea for Stoked came to be. With Jim’s experience running a pizzeria (called New York Pizza) in Daytona Beach, Florida and then a seafood restaurant in Nanaimo (called the Bluenose Chowder House), having him on board only made sense.
Today, we start our dining experience with the ‘East Coast Garlic Fingers.’ An homage to Oliver’s roots in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, this dish sees wood-fired garlic bread covered in cheesy perfection and served with homemade donair sauce for dipping. The crust is fluffy yet perfectly caramelized, and the sauce is like nothing I’ve ever tasted before, however; our fearless leader Adam tells us this is a staple in every pizza shop in the Maritimes.
Next in our food journey comes the ‘Funghi.’ The crust is lightly brushed with a creamy homemade béchamel sauce infused with garlic and herbs before being topped with a mixture of cremini and portobello mushrooms, fire-roasted garlic, and a blend of mozzarella and havarti. To add freshness to the dish, it’s garnished with organic arugula from their neighbours at Livin’ the Dream Farm. It is truly the perfect mix and balance of flavours, and even better, it’s vegetarian! They also have gluten-free and dairy-free options available upon request.
If meat is more your thing, you’ll love the specials that are posted every few weeks using cured meats from former Executive Chef of Sooke Harbour House, Edward Tuson, and his company Black Market Meats, who are located just up the road in Sooke. For these specials they’ll pop into his shop, see what’s available and go from there. Meagan tells us that “We do plan to use more and more of his products as the season progresses but for now we only have it on offer every couple of weeks.” Today’s feature is an especially delicious ‘Spicy Capicola’ pie made with Black Market capicola, bocconcini, mozzarella, and Livin’ the Dream arugula tossed in a honey-chili dressing.
With all this pizza, we need something light and acidic to cap things off and a perfect way to do that is with Stoked’s ‘Livin’ the Dream Greens’ – a garden salad made from organic greens, roasted beets, carrots, purple cabbage, fresh berries, hemp hearts, sunflower seeds, and sprouts all coated in a stunningly purple maple balsamic berry vinaigrette. Fresh, colourful, and full of flavour, this salad should not take a backseat to any of the other items we’ve tried today, as it is just as methodically executed and plated for service.
So, whether you are simply out for a day by the beach or a more extended weekend camping trip with the family, Stoked Wood Fired Pizzeria is a must stop on your journey. Be part of their community. Get stoked!