The oven is the star here, no matter how you slice it

Gus Tsaprailis removes a Neapolitan pizza from the rotating oven at Oven 360. Cathy Dobson

Gus Tsaprailis calls it the workhorse of his new pizza business.

The mammoth, 5,500-pound oven imported from Italy dominates the open kitchen of Tsaprailis’ new Oven 360 restaurant.

Tsaprailis slides a Neapolitan-style thin crust pizza inside and waits for it to do a complete 360-degree rotation as a gas flame keeps the oven a toasty 640 F. Two minutes and 45 seconds later, the pizza comes out a golden brown with a light, airy crust.

Among the many challenges of opening a pizzeria during a pandemic was the delay in the oven’s delivery. It’s a specialty product, round with a concrete floor perforated with hundreds of tiny holes.

“This isn’t your regular pizza,” Tsaprailis says.  “The crust is thin. The dough is all by hand. When you eat it you don’t feel weighed down.”

Above all else, quality convinced Tsaprailis that Oven 360 will succeed in Sarnia’s already highly competitive pizza market. He also heads up operations and branding for the company, which is gearing up to offer franchises.

“Oven 360 is a brand new concept we’re developing,” he said. “This one in Sarnia is the proof-of-concept store.”

Seven Oven 360s have already opened in southwestern Ontario, and Tsaprailis and his partners hope to be ready to offer franchises within the year.

Two award-winning chefs, known only as Remo and Lucio from Windsor, run the “creative” side of the business and developed the brand’s 12 signature pizzas.

Tsaprailis brings 32 years of restaurant experience to the partnership. And he grew up in the industry, with his parents owning the Corunna Restaurant.

When he was 18, Tsaprailis and his brother Theo opened Sarnia’s first Subway. By 2004, they operated eight of them and continue to own six.

They also opened A Taste of Greektown in Lambton Mall, then sold it, and operated BC’s Bar & Grill for four years.  Along the way, he was involved in Sammy’s Souvlaki and in 2012, worked with partners to open Qdoba Mexican Eats in London.

Sarnia’s Oven 360 launched Nov. 11 and employs 16 full-time and part-time people. Tsaprailis said he’s still accepting resumes.

The restaurant has seating for about 25 inside and a new outdoor patio designed for 30 more diners. To meet current pandemic protocols, renovations to 505 Christina St. included dividers between tables and a separate entrance and exit.

A garage door was installed that will open onto the patio in good weather. A retail area for frozen pizzas is also part of the business model, which will be expanded in the new year to include oils, dips, and oven paddles.

Personal signature pizzas at Oven 360 are priced from $10.95 – $13.95 depending on topping choice.  Create-your-own pizzas cost $12.95 for a personal size;  $17.95 for large, and $37.95 for party size (all with four toppings).

A portion of every large pizza sale goes to charity.

The long list of toppings range from the usual to more interesting options, such a bocconcini or smoke mozzarella cheese, capicolla and imported prosciutto and portobello mushrooms, sundried tomato and eggplant.

Paninis, pasta, gelato and salads are also on the menu.

Oven 360 at 505 Christina St. North is open six days a week (closed Monday) and available for dine in and take out. Delivery is coming in 2021. Call 519-336-1555, visit Facebook or www.oven360.com.

Got a great idea for a business story? Send it to cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca.