Our History

How Pizza On Earth Began

Sarah Jane Johnson opening Pizza On Earth in 2010

Pizza On Earth came into existence between my second and third years of music school. Tired of working for my father’s timber frame company during the summers, I applied to the Summer Company Grant which I had heard of through my cousin. My original idea was to open a cafe, knowing that Dorset lacked good coffee, but when I excitedly told my neighbour my idea, he let out a large guffaw and said, “What Dorset REALLY needs is a pizza place!” Mom and Dad thought he had a point. Eventually Dad added, “Well, if we’re going to do this, we’d better do it right. I’ll build you a wood-fired oven.”

He did, modelling it after the 2,000-year old ovens found under volcanic ash in ancient Pompeii. I named it Vesuvius, and that oven became my most faithful business partner, and my most vexing antagonist.

The interior of the oven is a dome of bricks and mortar
The exterior is made with refractory mortar and stucco

I didn’t really have a clue how to make pizza when I first started. I remember watching a lot of YouTube videos. But even that didn’t prepare me for having to deal with humidity which made dough fragile, or regulating the temperature of the oven simply by the size of the logs I chucked in. I wrecked half the pizzas the first week, and gave away the other half, due to being singed or shaped like amoebas. I remember five in a row one fateful night my first month and bursting into tears right in front of four, sweet, elderly ladies from Baysville and declaring that I was quitting this whole dratted pizza idea! Alas! Necessity is the best teacher, and seven years later, I know an awful lot about wood-fired pizza making. Did you know that you should never use sugar to kickstart the yeast, and that rolling pins are strictly forbidden?

Sarah Jane working with dough in the early days
Sarah Jane and Vesuvius hard at work

One thing I never had to struggle with was customer flow. There were people lined up waiting for pizza even before I had put the last coat of urethane on the countertops, and quite frankly, it hasn’t stopped since. In the dead of summer, I churn out over 100 pizzas a day, and sometimes the wait times are two hours long. Thankfully, we have solved some of the capacity issues by building a new oven and expanding the kitchen.

The new and improved service counter

I love being able to live in my home of Dorset each summer and to feel connected to my community. Not just connected – I feel like my little pizzeria is one of the major hubs of Dorset. Customers lean over the peekaboo window between reception area and kitchen to chat to me or each other as I toss their pizza dough. They play frisbee in the parking lot, or wander through the community gardens which is right beside Pizza On Earth. Cooking a pizza in a wood-fired oven takes a mere three minutes – eight minutes if you include having to shape and top each pizza by hand – and I see wonderful effects on people when they are forced to slow down and wait for just eight minutes. I’ve become friends with many of my customers – even gone on a date with one or two of them! – and they are delighted when I remember their names and ask about their jobs or their kids. I believe that people come to Pizza On Earth both for the great pizza – which is really top-notch quality (which often surprises people, being a tiny takeout on the side of a rural highway) but also for the experience. We give them a history lesson about wood-fired Italian ovens, I give them a dough-throwing spectacle, I chat to them about my cello-playing endeavours in the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra during the winter, and let the kids help Mom in the garden. What I give them is an experience to remember and to talk about with their friends and family back at the cottage.  Whenever I suffer from self-doubt, I only have to read Yelp or TripAdvisor for a boost of confidence. My online reviews are everything from “this pizza is a stunning work of culinary art” to “best f-ing pizza evah!” 

Sarah Jane happy in the new kitchen

Most recently, my dad built an even bigger wood-fired oven for Pizza On Earth. It has a wide mouth and can handle five pizzas at one time. I’ve named it Etna, after the other major volcano in Italy.

Sarah Jane’s father Brad Johnson building the new pizza oven
Etna is ready to go

Come to my pizza shop and bring your friends! Etna is all fired up and ready to cook you the best pizza on earth!

– Sarah Jane Johnson (2016)
Chef and Founder of Pizza On Earth