Pictou County was established in 1835 and includes the towns of New Glasgow, Stellarton, Pictou, Westville and Trenton which are all located in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada. Pictou County borders the Northumberland Strait, which is famous for it’s amazing beaches and because of the strait’s shallow depths, home to the warmest ocean water temperatures in Canada, and some of the warmest ocean water temperatures on the Atlantic coast north of Virginia. It is also home to the Riverfront Jubilee that runs the long weekend in August offering three days of amazing Canadian music talent on the banks of the East River.
Pictou County may have been built on the forest and coal industries, but these days Pictou County is renowned for something interesting: it’s pizza, more specifically the pizza sauce. Now we know that everywhere claims to have the best pizza. You can go on social media and see Dave Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports doing one of his famous pizza reviews south of the border, where it’s “one bite, everybody knows the rules.” Dave might not get the opportunity to taste some of the pizza that Pictou county is famous for, but thankfully we have and there’s something truly unique about the pizza that you get from this area and it has everything to do with the sauce.
Now with most pizzas you typically expect a sweet or savory red tomato-based sauce to be the base of your pie however, in Pictou County they do pizza a little differently using brown pizza sauce that sends a message to your taste buds that something magical is happening.
Being from New Glasgow, well Linacy, I have tried all the pizza joints in Pictou County and consider myself the staff expert on brown sauce pizza. I have tried a lot of pizzas in my day, and I have never found anything that I like as much as Pictou County style pizza. When I find myself craving a slice from time to time, especially when writing an article like this, I have to make a trip back home to my favorite place for Pictou County brown sauce pizza, The Original Sam`s Pizza in Stellarton.
So where did this brown sauce pizza originate, well it all started in Greece in 1938, the year that George Kouyas was born, he was the youngest of seven siblings (five brothers and two sisters). George grew up in a small, Peloponnesian village on a mountain in Glastra, Greece. Growing up he witnessed the German invasion and occupation of Greece to assist its ally, Fascist Italy, which had been at war with Greece. George’s father was absent for much of the time due to accusations of being communist and incarceration, George soon realized that there was no future for him in his struggling homeland of Greece and at the age of just 13 years old, he and his brother ventured to Brazil and opened their own clothing store. It was there that George had developed his passion for business and stayed in Brazil for nine and half years, until he returned to Greece and joined the army, and served for two years which is mandatory for young men of his home country to maintain their citizenship.
After George finished his compulsory duty, he travelled to England for three years, but returned to Greece. Unfortunately, Greece still showed no promise for George, so he then decided to travel across the pond to Canada where he worked for several different restaurants in the Montreal area.
George has always been a hard worker and has earned his way in the restaurant business from the ground up. Starting as a dishwasher and working his way up eventually to manager. Always an entrepreneur at heart, George was eager to learn everything he needed to know so that he could one day run a restaurant of his own.
It was during this period of transition that George and his brother had been experimenting making pizza sauce for various employers. After tweaking their recipe over the years, they realized they had something that tasted amazing and truly original.
As we mentioned before George’s goal was to always have a restaurant of his own and now he had a secret sauce to make that happen. While George was working in Montreal, he came across a Greek man who was visiting from Pictou County, Nova Scotia. They got to chatting and George asked him if there was an ocean near by…the man of course said “yes, I actually have a cottage on the beach.”
George continued to question the man and the conversation ended with George along with his brother coming to the East Coast with him to see this place near the ocean in Pictou County, and they really liked what they saw.
One thing that George noticed on his visit was that there weren’t any pizza restaurants, and that pizza was almost unheard of in the area, so he quickly realized he could open a restaurant, with their perfected pizza sauce and try to make a living selling pizzas.
The search began for the perfect pizza place and the journey had George going as far as Glace Bay and Sydney looking for a spot for his restaurant. Then one day while he was on Foord Street in Stellarton the search ended, and George and his brother purchased a building and opened the first pizza restaurant in Pictou County.
At first this epic pizza joint was called `Sands` (spelled SANNS) because of George’s love of the water and the beach, that was literally just minutes away. The name only lasted a month or so after George and his brother were informed the name had been registered by someone else in Nova Scotia. However, this was only a minor setback as George and his brother quickly replaced the Saans name with Sam`s in honor of their father, whose name was Spyro, but in Canada this name became anglicized as Sam – so it fit perfect for this pizza place and the rest as they say is history.
Sam’s which has an extremely loyal following now, struggled at first because the people of Pictou County didn’t know what pizza was however, George had faith in the business and knew that he had a great sauce and pizza and would tell customers, “One day you will be waiting in line for my pizza.” George was right, pizza quickly caught on and today people line up for Sam’s Pizza. If you don’t believe us just show up at Sam’s Pizza on Saturday night around supper time, you better be prepared to wait awhile, but it is worth every minute.
Sam’s is truly a family business success story. George and his brother over the years brought most of their family to Pictou County with many working in various capacities for the restaurant or at restaurants of their own.
At 82, George visits the restaurant daily and up until a few years ago was still making his famous brown pizza sauce. Now George leaves the day-to-day operations of the business to son, Spyro, and two of his daughters, Yota and Maria along with their cousin (George’s nephew) Spyro Pyrovolos, who has been with the business for as long as anyone can remember.
Over the years Sam`s has seen many changes. The business started out as a little spot in the 60’s, but in the early 80’s George, his brother and nephew decided to expand by purchasing the building next door. Both buildings were torn down to make room for the current The Original Sam`s Pizza that you see today. The menu has changed over the years and now includes a variety of delicious meal choices offering something for everyone, just in case you are in the mood for something other than one of their amazing brown sauce pizzas.
The Original Sam`s Pizza has a loyal customer base who frequent the restaurant or place their takeout orders these days with the current Covid restrictions. Can’t make it to Stellarton, well not to worry as the team at Sam’s has you covered, as they are now offering prepackaged frozen pizzas at several local convenience stores and markets across the province so that you can get your fix for their brown sauce pizzas. Some loyal customers are having Sam`s Pizza shipped to them all over the country and world for that matter as they crave a taste from home.
If you want to try your hand at making your own pizza with George’s famous brown sauce recipe, The Original Sam`s Pizza is now available by the bottle at various locations regionally and throughout Canada and even by the jug in Stellarton.
But if you want the true Original Sam`s Pizza experience you need to come to Stellarton and order a Combo, which is a pizza topped with Brothers Pepperoni, green pepper, mushroom and smothered with the perfect blend of cheeses and enjoy it piping hot right out of the oven. Locals, I being one of them, will also tell you that a big slice of Sam’s brown-sauced pizza is best paired with their sweet donair dipping sauce and one of Sam’s amazing Greek salads.
You can take my word for it, but I recommended the next time you’re craving a slice or venturing to or through Pictou County going to one of the many beaches, that you stop in say hello to George and try one of his world-famous brown sauce pizzas, your mouth will thank you.
by Lee Ann Atwater