Shove it, Neapolitan
Introducing a parade of five spring pizzas that will rock your world
We can no longer define the Six’s love affair with Italian as a trend. At this point, our relationship with trattorias is more marriage than a fling. And, like any healthy relationship, evolution is key to keeping things zesty. Toronto’s obsession with floppy, wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas has been replaced by a new parade of pies. Black crust, thick crust and sour dough have become the new orders du jour. Here’s a look at five top pizza places that are ditching the pizza rule book.
“Pizza is like sex, when it’s good it’s good, when it’s bad it’s still pretty good because all pizza is good, in my opinion,” says Piano Piano owner Victor Barry. Even when he’s running an Italian joint that has a kids’ menu, Barry can’t help but bring some Splendido — his now-shuttered fine dining institution — into the kitchen. At Piano Piano, even pizza is laboured over: it takes 60 hours just to make the dough. The tomato sauce is top secret. Barry gets Ontario-grown black San Marzano tomatoes canned exclusively for Piano Piano and refuses to divulge an ounce more on the subject.
“There are a lot of rules with Neapolitan,” explains Barry, who has tweaked the southern Italian pie with Canadian ingredients. To make a true Neapolitan pizza (the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana actually certifies the authenticity of these pies) everything is strictly mandated.
“For Neapolitan, the tomatoes have to be grown in the smoke of Mount Vesuvius. Well, we grow great tomatoes here, so we don’t care about that. You have to use the proper pizza flour from Italy. Well, Italy imports the grain from Canada, grinds it and gives it back to us, so we’ll use a local kick-ass flour, instead,” says Barry.
His wood oven-scorched pizzas come out with just the right amount of char, sturdy enough to make it from plate to mouth but only just — each bite is heavily loaded with fior di latte and haute toppings like ’nduja and dandelions. 88 Harbord St., 416-929-7788
Oretta is a place of food worship — or so the decor would say. The inspired interiors (25-foot vaulted ceilings and heaps of marble with gemstone accents) make it seem like you’ve stepped into a history-steeped basilica, instead of a brand new restaurant. Here, Roman pizzas — more substantial than their southern, Neapolitan cousins — are topped with out-of-the-pizza-box combos.
The white pizzas are particularly inspired. Oretta’s sbozzo, for instance, piles mortadella slices atop fior di latte and mascarpone. Slices of preserved orange and a smattering of pistachios complete this white pizza. Although the tomato sauce–topped pizzas tread familiar takeout ground, the acidity of the San Marzano tomato sauce on the Cardinale pizza perfectly cuts through the fat and spice of the salami. 633 King St. W., 416-944-1932
A stone’s throw east on King Street is Masseria, which offers upscale-casual Italian nosh for those lacking an oretta (that’s “hour” in Italian) to sit down. This is Pizza Nova owner Domenic Primucci’s passion project. He’s using top-notch ingredients like croccantini: dried, EVOO-preserved red peppers made exclusively in Palazzo San Gervasio, the town Primucci’s family’s immigrated from. A hand–driven prosciutto slicer has even been flown in to keep things authentico. There are a few items on the menu — like the carbone pizza — that would raise eyebrows in the home country.
A pizzaiolo would blush with shame pulling a pizza this black from the oven. But these aren’t burnt pies. Their black hue comes from vegetable carbon, which imbues the dough with a light airiness. Carbone pizzas will appeal to pizza-hankering yogis, as they purportedly are easier on the digestive system than their traditional counterparts.
“Activated charcoal in health products is a growing trend; we developed the carbone dough as a way to integrate that into our menu,” says Primucci. 577 King St. W., 416-263-9999
With a name like Superpoint, this irreverent Ossington spot is obviously not feigning authenticity. The menu’s a mix of red sauce Italian (cheesy garlic bread, bruschetta, cheese burgers) and true paisan fare. A bowl of lamb cavatelli in a white wine–rapini sauce, for instance, could pass for Nonna’s.
The pizzas, however, are 100 per cent New York. Pizza dough sits in the fridge fermenting for up to three days before it’s stretched and baked in a double-decker Vulcan pizza oven. The resulting pies are substantial, chewy slices. Go traditional with cheese, pepperoni or chili-anchovy. Alternatively, get slightly fancier with toppings like capicola or peppers with Gorgonzola. 184 Ossington Ave., 416-519-6996
Adamson Barbecue’s just-opened sister spot, Conspiracy Pizza, is already a cult favourite with the lineups to prove it.
“If you tell anybody about us, we’ll kill you,” jokes co-owner Adam Skelly in reference to their name.
Skelly is an avowed pizza junkie, so it was only a matter of time before he opened up his own pie shop. Using a PizzaMaster oven that churns out N.Y.-Neapolitan hybrids in four minutes flat, Conspiracy’s dishing up pies that will mostly appeal to meatheads. Challenge your Scoville tolerance with a made-for-carnivores Steel Beams, which tops a triplet of peppers (poblano, banana and bird’s eye chilies) with jalapeno-cheddar sausage plucked from Adamson. For those hounding after veg: The Grassy Knoll is a go-to (it boasts three types of mushrooms and two varieties of kale). So far, Conspiracy only awakens come the weekend; be sure to check their Instagram for details on how to get your mitts on a slice come TGIF. 176 Wicksteed Ave., 647-694-3327