For Newmarket pizza chef Akos Pataki, it’s all about the art of the dough.
Pataki and wife Erika run the family business known as A’s Pizza Truck, the first and only food truck of its kind in Newmarket to serve up old school-style pizza that’s so wickedly good one starts to salivate at the mere thought of it.
“The dough is a living thing, it’s key, it’s everything,” Akos said while aboard the truck in the NewRoads Mazda parking lot on Mulock Drive on a recent Friday, where a dinner service is offered every week. “The truth is in the crust.”
For anyone who has tried to make pizza dough at home, you know that the perfect balance of texture and flavour can prove elusive. It was that exact challenge that drew Akos into the pizza-making world 16 years ago and it is what keeps him as excited about the business as when he first started out.
“When I realized it’s not as simple as it looks, it’s a huge challenge and it takes years to perfect, that’s when it became more and more exciting,” Akos said. “There’s a never-ending learning curve. There’s no such thing that you know everything about it, it’s up to you how deep you want to go into it.”
The Patakis emigrated to Ireland from their native Hungary before settling in Newmarket in 2011. Akos learned the fine art of pizza-making in Ireland and continued to ply that passion first at Vaughan’s A1 Autostrada and other Italian restaurants in the GTA, then at Newmarket’s Nature’s Emporium, where he created its first pizza station.
The success the couple has been able to achieve so far can be attributed to a shared and unabashed love for the role each plays in the business.
This month, the Patakis will celebrate their one-year anniversary of turning what was a part-time venture since 2015 into a full-fledged, full-time food business.
Erika handles all aspects of marketing, promotion and customer engagement on its Facebook and Instagram page. The busy parent of two teenaged children brainstorms weekly specials and customer giveaways, takes orders daily, and ensures that children in a school lunch program it runs on Thursdays get their pizzas on time, fresh out of the oven.
The Patakis scour the truck after every use and shop for and prep only the freshest ingredients before the food truck is ready to roll.
“I do everything with Akos except making pizza. Nobody can make pizzas like Akos,” Erika said. “We have a really good relationship with our customers and we are very proud of that. They know that they can make a special request and we always try to please everyone.”
NewmarketToday sampled A’s Pizza Truck’s signature pizza, which is also a favourite among local customers.
The velvety dough begins its transformation in the 750 F oven into a feather-light and airy crust that is both crunchy and soft in all the right places. A homemade chipotle aioli laps the dough before fresh-sliced mushrooms, generous slices of brie, and crumbled bacon are added. A light rain of mozzarella tops the pizza before it hits the stone in the oven.
“When you try my pizza, you wonder how it is so light and airy. It’s all about knowledge and experience, and understand what’s happening,” Akos said, who adds with a laugh that he continues to knead the pizza dough by hand and doesn’t own a mixer. “It takes hours, but it’s good exercise.”
For a good crust, a “crazy hot” oven capable of reaching between 700 F and 750 F is required, Akos said, adding the maximum temperature of most home ovens doesn’t cut it.
“You also have to rotate where you put the pizzas, you can’t put in the same place because the stone needs to recover, the stone needs to reheat,” he said.
There are four propane-powered ovens on A’s Pizza Truck that can quickly cook up to six pizzas at a time. All the dough-making, homemade sauces and ingredients are prepped in advance of the two days each week the truck rolls out for service.
A’s Pizza Truck is parked on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at Leon’s, 25 Harry Walker Pkwy., and at NewRoads, 18100 Yonge St., from 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. On Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m., A’s is parked at NewRoads Mazda, 349 Mulock Dr., for a dinner service.
Customers must pre-order pizzas before Tuesday evening and pick them up at the truck during any one of its three services. That, Akos said, is key to savouring a pizza he is proud to serve.
“When you make the dough it needs time to proof, and my dough proofs between 18 and 24 hours,” he said. “The biggest challenge is to make sure the dough is ready and is perfect when I want to use it. You can’t just pull the dough out of the refrigerator and use it an hour later.”
Things such as water temperature, amount of yeast, and the temperature and humidity in the room are all considered when Akos turns his attention to making pizza dough.
“The good thing for me, and the biggest advantage was that every single job I had in Canada for the last eight years was as a pizza chef, and it gave me the chance to experiment with ingredients, different flours, and developing my own personal style,” Akos said.
The key ingredient to a good dough, Akos said, is flour. And the only flour he uses is imported from Naples, Italy.
The Patakis have spent time getting to know their local customers and their tastes. For example, Akos said Newmarket customers prefer a good amount of toppings and he has adjusted his dough recipe to yield a little firmer crust.
“We’re in Canada, north of Toronto, and this market needs an extremely light crust that’s firm enough to hold toppings,” he said. “For me, everything is all about flavour. Every bite has to have flavour. We marinate our vegetables for 24 hours before we put them on a pizza.”
Indeed, one tastes the personal touch of the pizza chef in every bite, and the Patakis have every intention of keeping it that way.
When the truck is not out in the community serving up pizzas, which now includes the area’s only gluten-free, sourdough crust without added yeast, eggs, dairy or sugar, the Patakis provide catering services such as late-night pizza bars at weddings.
The couple also gives back to the community by offering free or reduced-price pizzas to those in need, and participating in local fundraisers and events, Erika said.
“We have a good following in Newmarket and the surrounding area,” Akos added. “But it’s the teamwork that makes it all work. I focus on developing the best dough ever and my wife handles all the marketing. The most important thing is to find and engage your customers, and she is amazing at this.”
On a recent week, the Patakis sold 170 pizzas. You’re advised to get your order in early. A social media post on the A’s Pizza Truck Facebook page now reaches on average about 11,000 people, Erika said.
Here’s how to place an order, or book A’s Pizza Truck for catering:
Whole pizzas are available for pick up at the truck’s dinner services and pre-orders must be made by Tuesday night through Facebook messenger, post your order in the comments section, or call/text 647-622-9062.
Visit A's Pizza Truck online for more information.
The catering flyer and menu can be found on Facebook and the website.