There’s a Pizza Place in Igloolik that Delivers…

May 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

If you’ve ever heard of Tujurmivik Pizza, based in Igloolik, Nunavut, it’s probably not because you got a take-out menu in the mailbox, and the owner can’t promise to deliver in 30 minutes or less. But it’s probably the only fast food joint in the world that will ship your order more than 1,600 kilometres across the Arctic for only seven dollars.

When we heard that Tujurmivik also claims to make the “best pizza in the circumpolar world,” we had to product-test it. So we ordered some pizza. To Yellowknife. Here’s how we did it:

Monday, October 28, 9:15 a.m.: The owner himself, Elijah Evaluarjuk, answers the phone at the Tujurmivik Hotel on the first ring. Evaluarjuk, who inherited the 43-year-old hotel from his father in 2002, explains that he’s been making pizza since 2004, but only started delivering last summer. Pizza delivery is just a side gig for one of the oldest businesses in Igloolik: Tujurmivik, Inuktitut for “a place to stay,” was housing tourists and researchers from outside the hamlet before the hamlet had flush toilets. Over the years, the makeshift hostel became a full-fledged hotel and the attached cookhouse built itself a reputation as Igloolik’s best restaurant, serving both southern cuisine and country food to order.

“We can get the pizza to the airport,” says Evaluarjuk when I ask him for a pizza to be delivered to Yellowknife. “But you’ve got to find someone travelling to Yellowknife from Igloolik to escort it.” I sigh, but Evaluarjuk reassures me it’s not as hard as it sounds. “Put a call out on Facebook,” he says. “I bet you’ll find someone.”

I send Facebook messages to three friends in Igloolik and send a mass email to my co-workers at Up Here Business’ parent company, Outcrop Communications: “I’m working on a story for Up Here Business about a pizza place in Igloolik, NU that will ship your pizza, as long as you have an escort for it. Does ANYONE know ANYONE travelling from Igloolik to YK within the next few weeks who could be relied upon to escort (and not eat) the pizza through this perilous journey?”

I wait.

Tuesday, October 29, 8:00 a.m.: Two responses, the first from Paul Quassa, newly-elected MLA for the Aggu (Igloolik North) riding: “I will be travelling to Iqaluit tonight and then to Rankin Inlet tomorrow morning. I can bring your pizza.” In an incredible Northern coincidence, Quassa is staying with a co-worker in Rankin. She also wrote: “Paul Quassa is coming from (maybe Igloolik where he lives) to Iqaluit to Rankin on Wed. and will stay with us … I am sure I can find someone going to YK from Rankin on Canadian North that would take it from here. (If we can send dogs this way, a pizza is no challenge at all.)”

11:30 a.m.: After confirming with Quassa and Burt, I call Tujurmivik and talk to Sheba TK, one of Evaluarjuk’s eight staff members. She recommends the Tujurmivik Special – Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers – so I order a large, and one with half-cheese and half-no cheese, just to throw her a curveball. “It’s too bad it wasn’t a few weeks later,” says TK. “We usually have char pizza but we have to wait for the ice to freeze so we can go fishing again.” She double checks my order and rings it up – $65 plus seven dollars for delivery. I pay by credit card (they also take email transfers) and she says it will be half-cooked, then frozen, so I will have to cook it for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit when it gets to Yellowknife. ETA: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 30, 6:43 p.m.: Burt calls. She picked Quassa up from the airport and transferred the pizza to a First Air cargo attendant travelling through Yellowknife on his way home to Kugluktuk. “We had full cooperation from First Air on this, from the counter people to the cargo people and the flight crew,” she says. The plane is running a little late, but will be at the airport by 8:15.

7:28 p.m.: Bored, having arrived at the airport early, I decide to order a pizza. Dominoes delivers in 26 minutes but my order is wrong (I asked for no cheese but the order-taker must not have passed the request along). I send it back.

8:13 p.m.: The Tujurmivik pizzas arrive unscathed, save for a tear in the box that a counter attendant made confirming the boxes contained pizzas and not, say, Japanese throwing stars. TK hands me the pizzas and offers a ride home from the airport. “One of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen shipped in the North,” he says as he drops me off. “But definitely not the weirdest.”

But is it the best pizza in the circumpolar world?

Cheese: (full pizza)

“It’s much better quality than the pizzas around [Yellowknife]. Not stringy at all.” – Rafael Yamashiro, web developer, Outcrop Communications

Meat: (5 slices out of 6)

“When I think of what you get from Dominoes with those terrible sausage lumps, the Tujurmivik Special just blows that out of the water.” – Tim Edwards, associate editor, Up Here 

“And the sausage is real sausage that they cut up themselves. It’s not that grey, brain-shaped, casingless crap.” – Chris Windeyer, managing editor, Up Here Business

“I think to attract people outside of Igloolik, they should try to put some more Northern things on it [like caribou or muskox pepperoni].” – Marion Lavigne, publisher, Up Here

Vegetables: (1 slices out of 6)

“I would like some more vegetables. They forgot my pineapple.” – Angela Gzowski, photo editor, Up Here Business

“Yeah, there were like four pieces of onion on my half, and they’re so thin they’re see-through.” – Ashleigh Gaul, associate editor, Up Here

“But that’s to be expected from a pizza from Igloolik, there’s nothing you can do.” – Chris Windeyer

Sauce: (3 slices out of 6)

“There’s not enough. I will say this: A lot of the pizza’s surface is basically stained with sauce; it’s pretty thin.” – Chris Windeyer

“But at least it’s not pouring out the sides, and the flavour’s not overwhelming.” – Tim Edwards

Dough: (5 slices out of 6)

“It’s nice because it has a slightly rough-edged, homemade feel to it. It’s not like getting a corporate pizza with special  cheese trademark stuffy crust.” – Matthew Mallon, editor, Up Here

“It tastes a bit like a sourdough crust.” – Camilo Rivera, web developer, Outcrop Communications

Overall: (4 slices out of 6)

“I’m impressed with how well it holds together. I find small-town pizzas are sometimes falling apart.” – Samia Madwar, managing editor, Up Here

“It’s better than any pizza [in Yellowknife]. The second best pizza in Yellowknife is the one from the Independent [grocery store]. Seriously. Frozen.” – Marcos Castillo, web developer, Outcrop Communications

“Tujurmivik-cellent!” – Tim Edwards

“For Igloolik, I think it’s probably great pizza. For Nunavut, it’s probably pretty good. But on a bigger stage … It’s hard to rate it because it’s probably the first time I’ve ever had a pizza that took a thousand miles to get here.” – Marion Lavigne

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