When Jason Uglanica got the keys to what was soon going to be Pizzeria Guerrilla on Fifth Street, he wanted to get a better perspective of the space.
He walked across the street and stared at the former Leung’s Building, and knew he wanted to help be a factor to drive business to the upper parts of the downtown Courtenay street.
“I never expected to turn to the restaurant side, but it’s a labour of love. When I was walking through (the space), I knew we were going to make a go of it.”
The restaurant serves thin crust pizza from a 55-year-old heritage double deck oven, along with changing shared plates, rotating craft beers, wines and handcrafted cocktails.
Along with chef Jessie McMillan, Pizzeria Guerrilla opened its new location at 444 5th Street in late 2018, moving from its former location as a food stand at Gladstone Brewery one street away.
Uglancia calls the new location a very “curated, comfortable space” but added the core of what Guerrilla stands for didn’t go away.
“We wanted to work with the community and to be in the downtown core; we wanted to be more community-based and have people come here to meet – this is the heart of the city.”
He said similar to their former space, they are continuing to work with local producers and distributors as much as they can, emphasizing the farm-to-table practices they have been using for years.
He said not only does the method support the local economy, but there is knowledge the food arriving at the restaurant comes from people with good stewardship, livestock and farm practices.
“Keeping it in the Valley is a win-win; we keep getting better things all the time.”
McMillan agreed, and said people are excited about the ability to diversify their menu with snacks, drinks and non-pizza items.
He said with a newer, expanded kitchen space, new items are being tested on the features sheet, which varies around the product available.
In the winter months with cold water, he explained they are able to use a lot of local seafood. If the feature is a hit with both guests and staff, then it may be added to the regular menu.
With experience working in kitchens in Montreal and New York, McMillan said his style of cooking could best be described as a “Pacific Northwest Italian – I use a simple approach which highlights ingredients.”
McMillian noted while he has only been in living in the Valley for about a year, he was very surprised about the size of its growing region. He alters his menu to what is available – in the winter there is a focus on charcuterie boards and cellar veggies, and in the summer, he looks forward to using local ingredients such as berries and rhubarb, foraged greens and zucchini.
Uglancia noted it is the food, experience and service which he hopes are the three pillars which bring the restaurant together.
“We’re so happy to see people come back – it’s personal. We’ve built a trust with our guests, and it’s the interactions that we love; we want to treat you like our friends.”
In addition to their regular fare, the restaurant is also collaborating with Victoria brewery Moon Under Water for a ‘famiglia’ style six-course dinner on Jan. 23. For more information about the dinner or the restaurant, visit www.pizzeriaguerrilla.ca or visit them on Facebook.