Canadian Pizza Magazine

Pinsa profile: Joe’s Italian Kitchen

By Karen Barr   

Features Business and Operations Profiles

This ever-diversifying business in Almonte, Ont., is making its name on pinsa

The Sophia Loren (foreground) featuring tomato sauce, fior di latte, arugula, prosciutto, Parmigiano and balsamic glaze is a crowd favourite and one of Joe Princiotta’s favourites. Photo: Joe's Italian Kitchen

Pizza, a culinary icon with a rich history, has been revolutionized by the introduction of the Pinsa. This innovative creation, born in 2001 at the hands of Corrado Di Marco, a member of one of Rome’s oldest baking families, is a testament to the ever-evolving culinary innovation. 

Seeking a lighter alternative to pizza dough, Di Marco meticulously crafted a unique flour blend to make Pinsa.

“It will no longer be round but oval. I will no longer call it pizza, but Pinsa,” Di Marco has been quoted as saying when introducing the new creation.

Meanwhile, in late summer 2019, Joe’s Italian Kitchen emerged in the historic town of Almonte, 54 kilometres from Ottawa. The chosen venue was a 170-year-old textile mill, adding a touch of history to the dining experience. The culinary concept was to create shared plates with traditional Neapolitan pizza and pasta. 


“Almonte attracts many tourists due to its charming buildings and the trails along the water. Our patio sits right on the Mississippi with a beautiful view of the waterfalls,” says Sasha Ruhs, director of operations for Joe’s Italian Kitchen. “We get guests from Ottawa and small towns nearby, as well as big cities like Toronto and Montreal. During the winter months, Almonte has a lot of loyal guests who return on a weekly and even daily basis.”

“Our chefs were well-trained, but we wanted them to learn how to prepare Neapolitan pizza from experts, so we all went to a pizza school in Toronto,” remembers Joe Princiotta, president of Joe’s Italian Kitchen and Pinsa Romana Canada. “While there, we learned about a special flour that produces a light, airy pizza called pinsa.” After looking around, they found no restaurants in Canada that produced this type of pinsa dough.

The team contacted the Di Marco family in Rome, which produces the specialty flour, and later boarded a plane to learn more. “Within a few months and many weeks of training, we launched the first pinsaria in Canada. Joe’s Italian Kitchen became the first certified Pinsaria and manufacturer of the pinsa par-baked crusts in Canada,” Princiotta says.

Pizza and pinsa Romana, this new generation of pizza at Joe’s Italian Kitchen, differ in two ways: the flour and the ancient Italian method. The dough is 100 per cent handcrafted and made with a blend of wheat flour, rice flour, soy flour and sourdough that, in the right proportions, gives it the desired quality and taste. By using the ancient Italian method of making up the dough, the amount of water and yeast in the pinsa is different than pizza. Additionally, the pinsa dough contains a modest amount of extra virgin olive oil. 

Joe’s Italian Kitchen has expanded to include two other Ottawa locations today. “On average, we sell over 2000 Pinsa per week in our restaurants yearly.” 

“It’s hard to pick our top two best-selling pinsa as they are very close in numbers,” Ruhs says. “The Joe Walsh is not your traditional style. It has a tasty pesto base with chicken, mushrooms, and Fior di Latte, topped with arugula with a balsamic glaze. The Joe Frazier is traditional with our homemade pinsa sauce, mozzarella and pepperoni. It’s a top seller to anyone who likes to keep it simple.”

“Let’s not forget about the Sophia Loren,” adds Princiotta, referring to the Pinsa with tomato sauce, fior di latte, arugula, prosciutto, Parmigiano and balsamic glaze, which is one of his favourites. 

Other pinsa on the menu to note include the Aloha Joe, with tomato sauce, prosciutto cotto, double-smoked bacon, fresh pineapple and mozzarella, along with the Joe DiMaggio with double-smoked bacon, baby spinach, tomato sauce, grape tomatoes, sunny-side up eggs, Pecorino Romano and mozzarella. Then, there is Joe Montana, which has homemade meatballs, pepperoni, banana peppers, tomato sauce and mozzarella. 

So, what is the profile of a customer who orders a pinsa from the menu? “Our customers are either pizza connoisseurs or health conscious. They love pinsa for its airiness, crispness and taste. It doesn’t sit in your stomach like conventional pizza. It has less gluten, more protein and fewer calories,” Princiotta says.

When comparing regular pizza to pinsa Romana, the pinsa has 85 per cent less fat, 40 per cent less sugar, 40 per cent fewer calories, 100 per cent less cholesterol and 33 per cent fewer carbohydrates than traditional pizza. 

“The reason pinsa Romana doesn’t sit in your stomach is also because of the 72-hour fermentation process,” adds Joe Sturla, the director of business development for Pinsa Romana Canada. “This breaks down the complex carbohydrates, proteins and fats into simpler forms, making it easier for the body to digest and absorb.”

What is critical when crafting the perfect pinsa? “During the mixing of the flour and the 72-hour dough fermentation, the pinsa temperature needs to be carefully monitored so that the dough ferments the correct amount,” Sturla explains. “Then, the pressure of the handmade dough balls and pinching of the pinsa need to be seamless to allow the pinsa to proof and cook to the perfect airy and crispy texture.”

Pinsa is also available wholesale through Pinsa Romana Canada as a fresh frozen product that is ready in five minutes. These are available in either plain or already dressed. 

“I first discovered the Pinsa product just over three years ago when I was doing some restaurant consulting for a local restaurant group in Ottawa. It was truly love at first bite for me,” says Alex Munro, owner of Fiazza Fresh Fired Pizza, with three locations in Ottawa. “While we specialize in a ‘00’ Neapolitan pizza dough, I also wanted to include pinsa in our offerings. It’s such an incredible product and so versatile. It cooks so well in our pizza ovens. The bottom of the pinsa comes out crusty, but the body of the pinsa is light and airy. Because of this, it becomes incredibly versatile by putting almost any kind of topping or ingredient on it, such as an all-roasted vegetable dish that is quite popular with our customers. It certainly lends itself well to a carnivore style as well.”  

Karen Barr is an Ottawa-based writer and licensed chef who travels the world to explore topics about food and culture.

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