Northern Wilds Magazine
Lento Wood Fired Pizza in Thunder Bay provides both catering services and a mobile experience. They can regularly be found at On the Links, and have a varied menu that is sure to appease everyone. | LENTO WOOD FIRED PIZZA
North Shore Dish

Wood-Fired Wonders

Fire is a powerful force. Most of the time we associate it with destruction. As the spouse of a firefighter, I know this well. When my kids were small and my husband worked at a small department in the Twin Cities, I took our kids to our local fire prevention week open house. There, they would build a room, hang some drywall, and put some furniture inside. With everyone standing back, a fire would be lit and spectators would watch how quickly the smoke detector sounded, and I found myself shocked at how quickly the room flashed over. Flashover occurs when the air in the room becomes so hot at the ceiling that it’s almost as if the air itself ignites. The fire truck would roll up to the burn room in an expected amount of time from the 9-1-1 call, put the fire out, and the kids would cheer and high-five the firefighters. It was a sobering demonstration of the risks of fire and its potential for danger in our homes.

Fire isn’t always destructive though. My first exposure to fire as a creative force was when I was probably elementary aged. Growing up, my grandparents lived down the road from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campground, and in the summertime the corps put on all sorts of fun weekend activities for the campers, like family movie nights, and themed nature walks. On one of those nature walks, the park ranger showed us a jack pine cone. She noted how tightly sealed the cones were, passing a cone around for all the kids to explore. Then, she took out a propane torch and we watched in awe as the resin on the pine cone melted in the fading light, and the pine cone gently opened, releasing the life trapped inside.

Fire alters everything it comes in contact with. When it comes to our food, it makes many nutrients more digestible, and cooking is considered a significant evolutionary development for humans. Modern kitchens have microwaves and ovens and automatic pressure cookers to achieve hot and cooked food, but fire still has its place. Wood fire seems to be making a resurgence in restaurants serving flame grilled burgers and steaks and wood-fired pizza ovens.

Wood-fired pizza ovens usually run between 800º-1,000º F or 425º-535º C, and impart a subtle smoky flavor to both the crust and the toppings. Because they cook so quickly, the crust is slightly crispy, the cheese is bubbly, and the vegetables are delightfully roasted. Commercially, pizza ovens are lovely because they stay hot and do not take a significant amount of energy to keep hot once they reach temperature.

One thing that can take up a lot of energy is deciding where to eat. Check out Ursa Minor in Duluth, Wilderness Wood Fire in Ely, or Lento Wood Fired Pizza in Thunder Bay if you are looking for something interesting (and delicious) for dinner.

Wilderness Wood Fire is a wood-fired pizza truck in Ely. This BBQ chicken pizza is topped with garlic chicken breast, tangy BBQ sauce, red onions, garlic, and finished with cilantro and more sauce. | WILDERNESS WOOD FIRE

Ursa Minor, Duluth

Ursa Minor is located in Duluth’s Lincoln Park District, and features a steady menu of delicious wood-fired pizzas, like the Wise Yker with Yker Acres spicy sausage and pickled red onions, or the Voyager which features kale, mushrooms, and Parmesan with a balsamic glaze.

Wood-fired pizzas are cooked in their indoor oven, visible from the original seating area. Over the past year, Ursa Minor has expanded their space to include a kids’ space for littles, and creating more indoor tables to accommodate patrons. They continue to feature live music, as well as community events and collaborations with other local businesses.

Wilderness Wood Fire, Ely

Wilderness Wood Fire is a wood-fired pizza truck in Ely, serving delicious pizzas and snacks each weekend. While the locations of Wilderness Wood Fire may change, the expectation for creative and delicious pizzas does not. A seasonal special and frequent request is their Thai peanut chicken pizza with freshly made Thai peanut sauce, garlic chicken, red onion, and green peppers, topped with fresh cilantro and bamboo shoots.

Wilderness Wood Fire’s creativity extends beyond pizza. Wood-fired waffles with strawberry sauce and chocolate. S’mores dip. Nachos. And of course, they have a traditional menu as well, which includes the Porky Luau with crushed pineapple, red onions, minced garlic, and Canadian bacon. Alternatively, if you reject pineapple on pizza, you may enjoy the Feisty Pepperoni with pepperoni, feta cheese, and jalapenos.

Wilderness Wood Fire keeps patrons up to date on their locations through their Facebook page.

Lento Wood Fired Pizza, Thunder Bay

Lento Wood Fired Pizza started with a desire to bring pizza Napoletana to Thunder Bay. This means that Lento Wood Fired Pizza is particular about sourcing the ingredients of their pizzas. All dough is handmade using “00” flour, and their flavor is developed over a 48-hour fermentation process. This special dough makes a light and airy but crunchy crust that you have to try for yourself. Each pizza is hand-stretched and pizzas are baked in their wood-fired oven.

Lento Wood Fired Pizza provides both catering services and a mobile experience. They can regularly be found at On the Links, and have a varied menu that is sure to appease everyone. Lento’s calzones are stuffed with tomato sauce, pecorino romano, and basil, and baked. Their pizzas like the traditional margherita or Calabrese are also fired in the wood-fired oven. Lento’s even has a delicious Nutella pizza for dessert, and pizza crusts can be made gluten free.

Fire is a powerful force. As a kid I learned that fire needs three things: oxygen, fuel, and heat, but it turns out the “fire triangle” is actually a tetrahedron. Fire needs one more thing: a chemical reaction. It is this chemical reaction we lean into when it comes to our food, where another chemical reaction occurs, creating a depth of flavor that is otherwise impossible.

Fire is a powerful force. And it is the force behind Ursa Minor, Wilderness Wood Fire, and Lento Wood Fired Pizza that creates life and community.

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