After perfecting pizza dough in his homemade clay oven at the lake, a Trail native and his family are bringing a classic pie to the community at select events.
Rich Wiley – with support from his wife Maureen and their children Cindy Murray, Heather Bartlett, Trevor (Kelly) Wiley and Tim Wiley – are operating The Rustic Crust.
The wood-fired mobile pizza business is less about profit, then it is a chance to get the family together to share their passion for the authentic Italian treat with the rest of Greater Trail.
“It’s not about making money, that’s where the passion comes in. I wanted to do it just so other people could experience good pizza,” said Wiley, who maintains that the operation is truly a family effort.
Though it has been a work in progress, Wiley considers this year the first official year in business.
The family kicked off their season by bringing the oven to the parking lot of Gericks Cycle and Sport for a bike swap this spring and most recently fed residents who were out at last weekend’s Smoke n’ Steel Classic car show at Gyro Park.
The star pizza remains the margherita. Made of basil, mozerella and homemade sauce, the pie touting the Italian colours dates all the way back to Queen Margherita.
Other favourites include salami and mushroom, prosciutto and arugula, and the romano – a no sauce pizza inspired by Trail’s former Nellie’s Ristorante.
Pizza night at the Wiley’s started with Kraft pizza in a can, before dining experiences at former Italian restaurants in Trail, including Luigi’s and Nellie’s, taught the family that there was quality pizza to be made at home.
“It was kind of like you just wanted to do something together that you love to do,” said daughter Heather Bartlett. “Well for my dad for sure, he decided we were going to make the best pizza.”
Bartlett has fond memories of pizza night, a family affair that none of the kids would ever miss.
Nowadays, she said the business brings the siblings together for more camaraderie, not because they have to but because they want to.
“I tell people that my parents tricked us,” she laughed. “That this has been a process that has tricked us into being together and working together.”
After acquiring a taste for good pizza, Wiley began researching how to make a rustic “Napoletana” dough – an airy and light bite made possible with minimal ingredients.
Wiley and his family soon built a clay oven at their lake home and started hosting pizza nights, where friends and family would get together to make personal pies, which were judged and later enjoyed.
“When we had that oven at the lake it clicked that we could make really good pizzas,” he said.
“We started making pizzas that were of a better quality and we started to get feedback that it was.
“We hit on the pizza and it was like man, we need to share this with other people.”
With help from his kids, Wiley constructed a larger clay-based oven about four feet in diameter, which can now fit up to four personalized “slipper-shaped” pies.
The masonry-type dome, lined with a firebrick floor, is heated by burning wood in the chamber for over an hour to reach a temperature of about 450 degrees Celsius.
Once it gets up to a sweltering temperature, the fire is pushed to the back of the chamber and maintained as pizzas are cooked up on the spot.
“I don’t think anyone wants to eat pizza alone, that in itself is community to me,” said Wiley, who often wonders why he wasn’t born Italian with his passion for anything piled with cheese and sauce.
“We could eat pizza everyday,” he said. “It’s like Italian on a slice.”