By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
ST. JOSEPH – The Fire & Ice Pizzeria & Creamery in Royalton Township has begun to draw a following, just weeks after opening.
The restaurant serves wood-fired pizzas from a special oven and makes its ice cream using liquid nitrogen tanks at its 3848 Niles Road location.
Owner and operator Lori Costanza said the idea came about when she and her family went to Florida in January on their vacation. There, they came across the Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory, which used the same liquid nitrogen ice cream concept.
“They had the nitrogen ice cream and pizzas as well,” Costanza said, “but they sold about 10 percent pizza and 90 percent ice cream. We kind of changed the concept a little bit, we wanted something that would draw people year round.”
Using nitrogen that reaches temperatures as low as 328 degrees below zero, Costanza said they take fresh cream and add different flavors to it along with other toppings before flash freezing it.
“It really is the freshest ice cream you’re going to get,” she said. “It hasn’t been sitting in a freezer. Our ice cream is made within a minute right in front of you.”
Business hours have changed since the pizzeria and creamery opened at the end of June, but for now they are 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday through Friday, 4-10 p.m. Saturday and noon-10 p.m. Sunday.
The business’ logo depicts the ice cream scoop and a pizza wheel, something Costanza said was the most relevant to what they sold. The menu has been expanded, as salads have been added, with soup and sandwiches on the horizon.
While Costanza’s husband is a farmer and she works as a nurse, they rely on their 20 employees, which includes their two 18-year-old daughters.
Daughter Anya Costanza said she liked the idea of the ice cream when she first saw it in Florida.
“I was surprised she wanted to open a whole new restaurant,” Anya said. “I realize now it’s going to be big. The way we make the ice cream, it’s like chemistry.”
Costanza said the family went back to Florida a month later in February, where they trained at Abracadabra for a week. Once Costanza put an offer into a building, they got in touch with Tim Mammina to develop the pizzas.
Having eaten at his former St. Joseph restaurant called Mammina’s at Edgewater, the two started talking and soon Mammina was recruited to be the pizzeria’s chef.
“Without him we would have had to sell concession stand food with the ice cream,” Costanza said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it. He makes his own dough and sauce from scratch.”
After closing on the building in March, the next three months were dedicated to renovation. This included seating, the stove and nitrous tanks as well as a sports court – with shuffle board, a playhouse and other game tables for children.
The concept was to have a place where kids would want to come and parents could get good food. As a mother of five, Costanza had the playroom in mind.
“Every time we want to go out to eat, it’s always a battle of ‘are we going to go somewhere the food is really good and the kids are miserable, or are we going to go somewhere the kids are happy and we are eating fast food?'” she said. “We are trying to create a place that is a win-win for both parents and children.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 12, 2015)