University alumni open Dragon Fire Pizza, C-U newest food truck


Dave Saam is a self-proclaimed pizza enthusiast. 

After years of making pizzas for friends and family, it seemed time for both Dave and his wife, Christy Saam, to open their own pizza business — Dragon Fire Pizza.

The food truck, which is serving piping hot, homemade pizzas featuring locally grown and sourced ingredients, is now officially gracing the streets of Champaign-Urbana. The truck is currently based at the intersection of Nevada Street and Matthews Avenue for lunch from around 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Dave and Christy Saam both met at the University during their time as students in the ROTC program. Both of them fell in love with the area for its feel of a “big city within a small town.” 

But after Dave graduated with a degree in psychology, he went and worked for the Army, while Christy studied Economics at the University and worked in Human Resources after graduation.

After their time in the professional world, it finally seemed time to embark on their dream of opening a pizza joint, Dave said.

“My brother has an MBA and I know a lot about pizza, so it seemed like kind of a natural fit,” Dave said. “We each had our area of expertise.”

Dave also explained he has always loved pizza. His parents live on a farm and would have large gatherings and parties. These events were the perfect opportunities to make pizzas and the perfect excuse to build a wood-burning oven. Dave made his own wood-burning oven and put it on wheels so it could be brought to family parties, marking the beginnings of the pizza creations that can now be found at Dragon Fire Pizza. 

Now working inside the Dragon Fire truck, the Saams use a custom-made wood-burning oven from Italy which heats to about 1000 degrees to make pizzas. This allows any pizza to be ready to eat in five minutes or less. By the time a customer is done ordering and paying, their pizza is essentially done and fresh from the oven, Dave said.

Christy Saam said their family has been having pizza parties their whole life. 

“That’s how we can end up with some of the recipes; we’ve always been making pizzas for people,” she said.

Each pizza on the menu somehow incorporates local and seasonal ingredients along with some type of play on the concept of “Dragon Fire.” The menu’s current special, “The Dragon Fire,” features a spicy, green sauce called “fiery green dragon,” sausage, peppers, onions and jalapenos. However, some of the pizzas are more traditional like the “Gold Dragon,” which is a cheese pizza made with homemade red sauce and a blend of Italian cheeses. 

Dave Saam said he prides himself on using fresh and local ingredients. 

“The cheese is from a creamery about 45 minutes away, made fresh,” he said. “The sauce is fresh and homemade; the sausage is made by a local company and picked up every morning. Our produce is from central Illinois farms also.” 

Jason Ford, who is serving as “pizzaiola,” as Dave Saam refers to him, for the truck, has worked at a variety of pizza restaurants and brings an expertise to the craft of making and handling pizza with technical skill. 

“I’ve made more pizzas than there are hairs on my head” Ford said. 

Dave Saam said he believes in something called pizza ethics. 

“This is the idea that pizza should be made well … with good fresh ingredients … maybe it’s because I’ve had a lot of pizza or something, but I think we do that here … we make a really good pizza.” 

Samantha can be reached at [email protected].