Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Top Ranked Pizza In Toronto - #10-1

It's been a long, long journey. We've gone from the modest to the exceptional, the tasteless to the vivid, the bland descriptive to the excessively poetic. Here goes, my top ten ranked pizza in Toronto.

#10 - King Slice (Bloor) - A--
1598 Bloor Street West


I have some good friends in the Keele/High Park area and multiple visits I've planned an extra fifteen minutes just for King Slice. A few years ago I was taking BP (that's batting practice for you non-baseball folks) at MacGregor Park and afterwards I talked my buddies into King Slice instead of Domino's. Because that's what friends are for.

King is simple in how it provides basic elements to fantastic effect. If you call yourself 'King' Slice you better bring the size and they sure do. Way back I gave Scaddabush trouble for, among many other problems, offering a tiny sized pizza at a seriously inflated price. A slice from King is larger than that entire pizza from Scaddabush (and infinitely tastier, duh).

The pie itself features a herby sauce, heavy mozzarella presence shaking hands with said sauce while the dough foundation is nicely oily and crisp. That crust is a gem, like soft garlic bread (you're doing it wrong if you don't get the garlic oil), with just enough crunch on the outside to lock juicy garlicy heaven on the inside. 

Overall, it's a classically huge slice (or hugely classical?) done exceptionally. Their Arrabiata slice (pictured above) is a top Toronto slice offering.

#9 - Buca (King West) - A-
604 King Street West


This entire time I debated even trying Buca. Maybe because of the expense (the priciest pizza on this list and I ordered the cheap one) and an inaccessibility to the common pizza goer. So this is a hard one for me to review.

The first time I ever went to Buca was for a trial shift (another work story!) way back in 2013. I didn't get the job and I'm fairly glad about that. It was really far from my house and deep down I was done being a busboy in super busy, fancy restaurants anyway. Returning a month ago, for this article, was an odd experience: like having a dream about a place and then years later you're actually there, except the details are different. The lighting is darker, the entrance is somewhere else, yet there's enough familiar memory that you recall the moment you were there before. 

Anyhow, back to pizza and Buca definitely has that. Thing is, yeah it's really expensive. Also yeah, flavour-wise it's somewhat inaccessible. Even after this pizza madness I don't consider myself a "foodie" (maybe a "pizza-ee" or something). As such this menu is intimidating, the kind of place where if you took a first date you'd be Googling things when she's not looking just to seem like you know what you're talking about.

I kept things simple, going for the Salami Di Buca pizza with mushrooms, house sausage, smoked mozza and savoury. The taste is very intense despite that seeming simplicity, with the powerful oily mushrooms acting as a powerful double act with the strong smokiness of the cheese. The sausage is scattered about here and there but is delicious when it appears, adding an occasional juiciness as an additional layer. Robust tomato sauce is in play and they don't short you on it (they'd better not), and the crust is likewise thin and excellently seasoned. There's more of an exquisite quality to the taste than a delicious one, like a power dinner on the company card to impress a client.

It tastes really good, though it takes time to reveal itself as you go. I probably won't go back as it's a bit too rich for me (both price and flavour) thus this tricky review: it's fantastic but I didn't really like it as much as this ranking suggests. The high quality here cannot be denied, however. 

#8 - Blondie's Pizza - A-
1555 Dundas Street East


Blondie's, at least from the time of this photo, wins the award for best box. As a child of the 80s/early 90s I love the delightful kitsch and retroness on display here. 

A venture of the Food Dudes catering company (another place I worked at once for about five minutes), Blondie's is a sleek little east end pizza shack surrounded by... nothing. Just homes. Also it's a shack all right: there isn't space inside for even a counter. There are some picnic tables outside, however, and a giant park across the street making them a friendly weather destination perhaps. 

Whether the weather is friendly or not, what really matters is the pizza. Well between my chief pizza associate's choice and my own I have to admit, hers was the better pie. A creamy white pizza covered in mozzarella, ricotta and pecorino, accompanied by thin crispy salami and thinner caramelized onions, this was that right balance of intense cheesiness, salty meatiness and sweetness from the onions. Remember, onions and I are not friends but for these ones I negotiated a prosperous truce.

My pizza, meanwhile, was more traditional: tomato sauce with mini chorizo meatballs, dollops of juicy chili and smokey provolone. Not as interesting but damn tasty regardless, with the spice factor being very on point (yet with nice sweetness to make it more complete) and the meatballs being quite firm on the outside but juicy within. Combine that with a lightly buttered crust and I was pleased with my choice. I play softball at that nearby park and I suspect I'll be hitting Blondie's after those games more than once this upcoming summer.

#7 - Pizzeria Libretto (King) - A
545 King Street West


There is no pizza I've had in my life more than this one. Not Pizza Pizza, not Nova, not even 2-4-1 as a kid. It's this one.

I worked at the original Ossington location for about a year and a half, see. There we would get a daily communal staff meal, either before the shift in the morning or after we'd stopped taking new tables at nighttime. The majority of these staff meals would be some pizzas (the easiest and quickest thing for the kitchen to make us) and I was consistently the only one never disappointed when that happened. I'd even take leftovers home if they were interesting enough creations. 

It gets better. When I worked I'd usually be helping expedite the pass (the middle point where food comes from the kitchen to server, a liaison between FOH and BOH). I would slice the pies, add a certain oil or salt if required and then deliver it to the table. Well, kitchens make mistakes, especially under the pressure of a busy restaurant known for having lineups on Monday nights, so the occasional pizza would be lightly burnt, have a tiny hole or just be the wrong order. Many of my managers were insistent that I throw these out immediately, primarily because I think they didn't want the servers and other FOH staff chowing down in the back during the middle of a rush. Understandable, sure, but we weren't always chaotically busy every hour of every night. Yet they really pressed it upon me so I threw out a lot of them.... into my secret pizza box hidden behind some plates (heh heh heh). Some nights I'd have three or four stacked atop each other in that one box. Sneaky and greedy, I admit (though I'd try keeping a few around for fellow staff on days those managers weren't breathing down my neck). I've worked in a lot of restaurants now and I just hate throwing out mistake food. It's such a complete waste and at least taking it home, sharing it with friends or utilizing it as a midnight snack is indisputably better than that. People don't fully realize how much food restaurants waste until you work in one and it's a damn shame. 

Eventually I left Libretto and hadn't been back until this past November, when this project began. It's difficult to be objective about a place you know so well (and the menu was basically the same!) but this had been six years. A long enough time to allow tastes to change and other delicious meals to come and pass. The question of whether it was as good as I remembered dominated my thoughts as I at last returned. To so fully approach the question I went for one of my personal favs from my past: the Nduja pizza.

It has a lot of things you've probably noticed from this list that I like: soft spicy sausage, garlic, creamy cheese with a mozza/stracciatella combo. After all those years though... did it measure up? Well spoiler... they're this high on the list, the answer is obviously yes. It's thin, soft, the tastes melt together in your mouth on every bite; the tomato sauce has that sweet spot sweetness and the cheese squeaks with buttery texture. It's great. Still great.

As time has passed, Libretto has become more of an established standard than a "must go" destination. When I worked there it was just the one location (Danforth opened up a month before I left). There are four now, as well as occasional pop-ups in food halls/farmer's markets and alike. Their brand is such a presence that perhaps they aren't as exciting to try now as they were back in those earlier days. Thankfully, their product is still excellent and very deserving of all praise.

One last Libretto story for the road. Somebody once ordered their own mad creation with six(!) toppings and we had to make it. I respect the ambition but with a thin, wood fried crust that monstrosity was a veggie cheese soup, not anything resembling a pizza. Surprise, I don't think that person was pleased with the result. This ain't Pizzaville, this is the big leagues rook.

#6 - Pizzeria Oro Di Napoli - A    
2312 Lakeshore Boulevard West


I was so close to giving a tie for 6th here with Oro and Libretto. They're so similar in texture, taste, sauce and just overall consistency. Libretto is more available (if you're looking downtown) while Oro has that destination charm thanks to their solitary location in delightfully funky Mimico.   

I'm giving Oro the edge though. This pizza I had was just so incredibly vivid in flavour: Nduja sausage again but a more earthy spice than Libretto's greasy "pow"; roasted peppers to add some much needed sweetness and just a faint dash of grano padano for an edge of sharpness. Consider this: I made two Mimico trips and number two was just for Cellar Door. Oro is the fifth Mimico place to make the list, so yeah first trip... four different places, one day, lots of rain... Even a mad pizza man would be worn after eating three other pizzas in the same day. Oro blew that away just by being so impressively excellent. If only they were closer. Their flavours are explosive and worth an hour on the streetcar.

#5 - Pizzeria Via Mercanti (Kensington) - A
188 Augusta Avenue


Mercanti is the poofier cousin of the last two and thicker crust-wise, soft and oilier while really keeping things simpler, though loading the toppings on heavier. My pizza here was another sausage/rapini combo (juicy and bitter) with the rapini getting a nice drizzle of olive oil to soften and enhance that sharp taste. The sausage meanwhile was huge and crumbly, with the right mix of pepper and saltiness to cut through the more intense rapini, while the cheese was the foundation grounding it all together. A great example of simplicity aiming high: executing basic elements at a high, high level to be as enjoyable or more so than any wild combination of toppings.

Speaking of that, my chief associate's pizza (in the corner of the photo) is really what nudges Mercanti into the top 5. A basic Margherita with the cheese and sauce all melty and gooey together, but the crust stuffed with ricotta cheese and spicy soppressata. It's one of those things that sound amazing when you're really hungry but then you go to Pizza Hut or Little Caesar's because it's close to your house, ending in the inevitable self-loathing those pizzas consistently provide. 

Well here's how you do it right: high quality salami, a more interesting cheese than generic mozzarella and that pillowy crust solid enough to hold the party inside without oozing everywhere. Baby, does it work, like a mini calzone waiting for you at the end of each slice.

#4 - Pizza e Pazzi - A
1182 St. Clair Avenue West


Roughly translated as "pizza and the crazies", this name sure spoke to a particular writer who'd just spent four months trying seventy-five different pizzas. 

Heading to Pazzi was a tight affair: I had about an hour before work and west St. Clair ain't close. Fortunately the St. Clair streetcar was surprisingly kind to this traveler and I was capable of eating this pizza without rushing. Which was great because holy moly this was an insanely delicious pie. Their daily special and pricey (22 dollars) yet fairly simple: a duck pizza with some gorgonzolla atop a tomato sauce base and bufala mozzarella. God damn. The duck was salty and tender, not chewy or dry at any moment (even reheated), a perfect match for the sharp blue cheese melted into the mozzarella. The sauce was very light (a shy base not disrupting the strong other flavours) while the crust was just magically doughy and charred, a perfect firmness to hold the juicy duck and heavy gooey cheese all together. One of the tastiest, most interesting pizzas I've ever had. 

The tricky thing now is that, while I'll definitely return sometime that pizza likely won't be available. Will whatever else I get be as good? That is a tower of a task. Stay tuned for the updated pizza rankings in... 2022 maybe? Ha.

#3 - Maker Pizza (Cameron Street) - A
59 Cameron Street


Entering the realm of brilliant creativity again, Maker is a very popular downtown spot tucked away on a side street behind Queen and Spadina. Walking there is a curious time: pass the Cameron House (a great little live music spot), past some newish condos on your left and rundown townhouses on your right. The projects meet the condo developers: classic Toronto standoff.

The inside has a sleek, small cafeteria feel to it with smooth long tables and stools. A smell of dough and fried onions is heavy in the air. On first visit my chief associate and I went for similar styles: white pizzas where hers had pork shoulder sugo (fall apart in your mouth flavour) with a mix of mozzarella, mascarpone and grano padano cheese with basil and garlic to finish the deal. I went cheesy myself, going mozza, goat cheese, parmasean and honey while taking a big chance that their caramelized onions were soft and sweet instead of firm and chunky. I was not disappointed, as this sweet creamy pie was extremely satisfying.

To refresh my memory, I went to Maker recently with the intention of building my own pizza this time. I was between a double shift and spent much of that first half jotting down potential combinations. At last, arriving during my break, I went for a meatball pizza with ricotta cheese, drizzled garlic oil and their 'everything bagel' crust. Fresh out of the oven it came and yikes, it was such a gooey and oily ocean I wasn't sure I could even eat it. Not that it didn't look delicious, just that first few minutes I thought everything would slide off the dough if I picked up a slice. The meatballs were floating!

Once it cooled and the foundation settled, I went in. The wait was worth it: great cheese action with the mozzarella and ricotta running an effective buttery/creamy tag team, with the sauce in all the right places despite a lacking presence. Instead of garlic oil they put honey on by mistake, which gave the pie a runny, sticky texture, but the sweetness of the honey worked with the soft cheeses. Then the 'everything' crust: firm bagel bread but with plenty of give, with poppy seeds and garlic bits caked on adding great crunchiness to the whole deal. Their regular crust is indeed quite good, but the 'everything' crust just takes it another few levels. 

Another point: how deceptively filling these pizzas are! You could split a small with a friend and be full, seriously. Maker is comfortably one of the best and (with their topping options/additions) most creative pizza options in the city.

#2 - Pizzeria Defina (Roncesvalles) - A
321 Roncesvalles Avenue


Folks, this is the hardest call of the entire list. I debated it until... I started writing this sentence. Defina's pizza is such a worthy choice for number one. It's wood-fired so not exactly in unique company up here, but it combines all those best previous best aspects. It has Libretto's thinness, Mercanti's heavy load of toppings, Pazzi's decadent soft richness and Oro Di Napoli's collage of flavours. Sheer brilliance.

I've been there twice and ordered the same pizza both times. It's my favourite pizza combo though: wild boar sausage with thin sauteed oily mushrooms and generous chunks of roasted garlic confit cloves. This wild boar isn't overly salty, instead taking on a soft meatball-like texture dissolving in a burst of mouth flavour in your mouth. The garlic and mushrooms add some grounding earthiness to this and are each individually delicious: the mushrooms an occasional delightful sidekick to the sausage and the garlic... well it's roasted garlic done right so what else can be said? To be extra fair I tried my damn good friend's pizza (a vegetarian option with kale, mushrooms, lemon and truffle oil) and it was equally delicious: that same sensation of many tastes combining for a party in your mouth and everyone's invited. 

Everything here just has that ideal pizza texture: soft cheese and dough yet with enough char to provide that desired contrast, while the toppings are simply divine. It's number one in my heart, but number one is really...

#1 - Descendant Pizza - A+
1168 Queen Street East


Here it is, the #1 in the Toronto pizza game. An easy choice, lots of other food folks would probably put them at the top. I like Defina so damn much, but a recent visit and re-trying of Descendant sealed it. These two (and the whole top 7) are so close but this is the best.

What stands is their uniqueness. Descendant is probably the only place in Toronto that does a legit Detroit style pie (get lost Little Caesar's). It's a rectangular, pan cooked pizza that comes out with similar thickness to Chicago style deep dish, substituting copious amount of sauce with dough and cheese, then drizzling sauce (tomato or mostly otherwise) atop the cheese and toppings so it soaks in as it cooks. 

The result is sublime. Their truffle mushroom pizza is a rich, creamy, cheesey unspeakably rich delight with bits of salty bacon everywhere. Their Electric Avenue jerk chicken pizza brilliantly walks that line of spice (smokey powerful hot sauce on side) with sweetness (red peppers, pineapple and lime cream sauce) and tenderly grilled chicken. A chicken Hawaiian pizza that works. Every topping is on point to perfection.

"No Name" pizza is more traditional: tomato sauce (sweet and excellent) atop pepperoni, cheese (mozzarella plus creamy ricotta) to give a texture of soft and crispy every bite. The outer crust has a kind of fried cheese taste/crunch thing going on, just adding to the unique flavour and texture happening here. 

If you've never been... stop reading this article right now (it's almost over anyway!), gather up some friends and try Descendant immediately. It's truly a special gift to us Toronto pizza peoples.

I hope you enjoyed this in-depth(ish) look at the many pizza options in this big city of ours. Some folks suggest I do burgers or tacos next, all good ideas. Pizza is my big one though: I can comment on other food I like, but pizza is what I love. 

I'll do another thing though, with help from friends much better than I at these delicious meals. For now... next time you're hungry, wherever you are and unsure what to eat... let this list influence your decision. Pizza... it's really the best.




Saturday, 9 March 2019

The Top Ranked Pizza In Toronto - #20-11

We've come very far and this final twenty, I assure you dear reader, is a parade of goodness. Debate the precise order if you must of course, here's how I see it:

#20 - Village Pizza (Dovercourt) - B+
759 Dovercourt Road


Normally if I pay five+ bucks for a slice, it better be either huge or thick. Village slices do neither and aren't particularly filling as such. More importantly though their pizza is interesting (and I didn't even try the spam one).

I went twice for two very different slices each time. First was a 1up mushroom attack: three types baked in with gorgonzola and mozzarella, super(Mario) soft and earthy, counteracted nicely with a smattering of crunchy garlic chips on top. Lots of richness and exceptionally light texture.

The second time I went a bit more traditional: electing upon the sausage slice with bocconcini, pickled hot peppers, lemony baby kale and a hint of brown butter. Texture-wise this was much different: where that mushroom pie had been smooth and oily, this sausage one was crispy with lots of dough bubbles. The crust especially was so crunchy I regretted saying "no" when asked if I wanted a drink. Beyond that though, every other element of this slice worked, with crumbly sausage not overcooked, little chili peppers providing a nip of heat rather than a punch, and a slight lemon hint helping offset the harsh bitterness of the kale (I always forget sometimes how I really don't like kale). 

Village's best weapon, however, is their house sauce. While there is a charge for other sauces (garlic dip, marinara etc), they have a squeeze bottle usually available of a fantastic bright red dip. Strong hints of chilis, garlic and a herb finish, this stuff is magic and really the strongest factor nudging them into the Top 20 here over a few other places equally deserving.

#19 - Big Trouble Pizza - B++
235-1 Spadina Avenue


I seriously can't believe I just now, sitting to write this review, realized how Big Trouble Pizza (being in Chinatown) is such an obvious reference to 'Big Trouble In Little China'. Well played, sirs.

Big Trouble wins a lot of points for creativity, and loses a couple likewise. Their 'King Funghi' slice was weird to me: super chewy sprout mushrooms, dollops of jam instead of tomato sauce, even more mushrooms and tiny bits of cheese? I felt like it was in my mouth for hours. 

However, the MF Prashroots slice: also mushrooms, but with truffle ricotta (whoa) and thin slices of prosciutto. Damn damn, a seriously wicked slice. Every bite was rich, salty, creamy, you just wanted to chew it slow and enjoy it, let it do its thing.

Since my two experiences were so drastically different, then came a third time! (I work very close to there on Fridays). Because of that difference, something classic and more neutral felt appropriate: their pepperoni slice. Sure enough, it's neutral and classic. Not gaining points or losing any because of it. The soppressata (thumbs up for that instead of pepperoni) is spicy but not aggressive, while the sauce and crust (thrust more into the spotlight here) show their stuff and are fairly standard, though the crust has a thin texture to it despite being visually thick.

After three(!) tries, I was compelled to go one final time before reaching amy final verdict. Why? Because those previous times I'd missed the most interesting slice to try: the Butter Jam Jam. A slice with raspberry jam, lemon zest and balsamic reduction? I'd be a terrible reviewer if I moved on from here without at least seeing if that one worked. 

Does it? You know... it does. Somehow, they pull it off. Imagine a thick slice of buttery toast, loaded with jam and melted cheese. That's basically what this is, with the balsamic there to cut into the intense sweetness of the jam and the lemon zest to... make this whole thing weirder I guess? It's a messy slice to eat (the soft dough foundation floppy under the weight) and maybe the novelty of it wears off a touch once you're halfway through eating it. Still though, massive creativity points whether they pulled it off or not and I'd say they do so successfully. A really, really innovative and cool pizza joint.

#18 - Double D's - B++
1020 Gerrard Street East


This place is a funhouse madhouse, friends. You go there anytime, any day and it's likely going to be memorable for you and whoever else you bring. The first time I went was with a friend similarly curious about some legit deep dish pizza in Toronto, and the staff was basically having a dance party. On a Tuesday, no less. They bought us two shots of Jameson, for cryin' out loud. 

The second time was with a buddy now teaching in China (good job but hurry the hell back would yeh) and we just went for some cheap pitchers of beer, not pizza (despite the temptation) and sat on their corner patio. At one point our cool and super eager server told us if anyone asked for her she'd be right back, then proceeded to hop into a SUV full of people blasting techno and drove off. (And she did come back!)

Right, the pizza itself. It's deep dish! Maybe not up to the absurd quality of Giordano's in Chicago or the amazing Zachary's in Rockridge, California. Taken out of comparisons like that, DD's is pretty damn good. Obviously there's a ton of sauce (duh it's deep dish) and it's full of tomato texture, like a thick hearty consistency while also avoiding soupiness. This particular slice did have a slightly stale crust (arg...), a result I suspect of my ordering a slice (and pint) special instead of ordering a fresh pie (I was in a hurry). The sausage meanwhile was delightfully smothered in the sauce and carried a presence even the bites that didn't have any. 

I love this kind of pizza. DD's misses only in overall consistency (the slight staleness and cheese not quite melted compared with the rest of it). It's not Giordano's or Zachary's but DD's is mighty good, a testament to deep dish style and damn memorable if you pop in at that right time.

#17 - Bellissimo Pizzeria and Ristorante - B++
164 The Esplanade


Pure nostalgia, baby. Unless you've lived near Sherbourne and Front (nope), dated somebody who lived there (also nope) worked in that area (yep), or shot hoops on that great Esplanade court (also yep), you've probably never even heard of this place. Well, it is a gem, a downtown pizza gem hidden around the corner from skyscrapers and behind the guise of some externally dumpy looking bar.

On appearance you really wouldn't think this as a great spot for pizza. I went to high school right in downtown Toronto and one evening after the talent show we all went. At that time I thought it was just some shady spot we went to because a dude on my Improv team lived nearby. Bellissimo though is more lived-in than shady. I've been going there occasionally for five years now (starting when I worked at a bar nearby) and it's always been one the same three people taking my order.

Enough nostalgia, the pizza itself claims this spot because hey, it's really good. Real, real cheesy, like to the point you probably have to wait five minutes to even break the slices apart because it also comes out real hot. Bellissimo pizza is really about layers: the layer of dough at the bottom (so thin it'll soak up all the oils of the toppings directly above real fast), the layer of toppings all together cooking under the heat of the gooey cheese layer, the said gooey cheese layer, and anything else that escapes to the surface. If you add feta cheese for instance (a very good move, like I did here), that will rest at the top and add a serious additional salty, flaky texture. And the ingredients themselves are solid: the mushrooms flavourful and moist, the salami super thin and lightly salty, the cheese thick (probably too much so, compared to the dough) yet not so much that you get the Domino's Pizza problem where it becomes impossible to reheat.

This is one of my personal favourite spots in the entire city, but I will say objectively they drop a bit for that excess cheese and there really are significantly better choices. But not that many, and their walk-in specials (10 bucks for a medium that's really a large) just adds to the loads of positive stuff happening. Never change.

#16 - F.B.I. Pizza - B++
2336 Lakeshore Boulevard West


Mimico is a fascinating part of town. Somewhat obscure (occasionally I encounter people who don't even know where it is), obviously beautiful (close to the lake and the Humber River), sketchy in some spots but also with a serious student presence (Humber College) while the Queen streetcar holds it all together. 

I traveled to Mimico twice this year specifically for pizza. Considering I live near Neville Park believe me when I say both times were worth the trip. Yeah, Calibreze wasn't anything great but Il Paesano really has a classic recipe thing going on; FBI Pizza takes it up a few levels. This pie I ordered (spicy salami with a drizzle of hot honey and pepperoncini) at first appeared seriously overcooked with those brown cheese bubbles. Instead it was a combination of mozzarella cooked at different levels: a crispiness to the cheese sure, but softness in the centre and a gooey consistency hidden by first impressions. Damn spicy too, oh yeah, yet the hot honey really combats that spice attack with a wonderful easier sweetness baked into the pizza and cheese itself (but not excessive to the point it simply thins and drips off; with honey on pizza you really have to find that sweet spot). 

I was impressed and this pie is truly delicious (still maybe slightly overcooked). Maybe another time (not -10 degrees) I'll head out to Mimico again for a pie. Maybe this one, maybe a different one.

#15 - Queen Margherita (Queen East) - B++
1402 Queen Street East


Back when I worked at Libretto some of our staff occasionally debated Terroni versus Libretto. QM was the rivalry our patrons often asked us about, wondering what the exact differences were or even if there was bad blood.

As style goes they're obviously very similar. QM seems like they keep things a bit simpler: not to the point of Terroni's minimal topping/no substitutions kind of thing, just a more straightforward traditional result. Not to say this is boring pizza in any way: this pictured pie was loaded with deliciously tender pulled pork, a drizzled olive/herb oil mix, some tiny peppers for a spice punch here and there, and the classic arugula/grano padano combo landing on the pad. 

This was the second time I'd been to QM, the first being a few months earlier likewise for this article but I forgot to take a picture. It's maybe for the best I did, because that first pizza was merely good while this pictured one (a daily special I think) was outstanding. This one had that dough/cheese melt in your mouth mix, with a little hint of char you expect from this type of pie, while my first go was more saucy, bitter outing (sausage and rapini) and I used a lot of nearby spicy olive oil for the excess crust. So consider it a B the first time, an A- the second. Like a roll of the dice where "good" is the worst result.

#14 - Salt And Tobacco - B++
521 Parliament Street


I went in this one not knowing what to expect: some random Cabbagetown spot I'd only heard about from Google Maps. So I was riding the wheels on a rainy December evening, happened to be passing by and thought this was the time to give them a shot. Nothing on the menu really jumped out except for a personal standard: a spicy Hawaiian.

Don't get me wrong, while I'm obviously pro-pineapple on pizza I only go for it once in a while (Once in a younger time I ordered a pie from Domino's with pineapple as the only topping. That... didn't really work). Anyhow when a Hawaiian pizza is executed like this, that is some serious points for pineapple. Everything here was top notch: tender bacon slabs (which I prefer over ham in this configuration), big jalapenos oozing with danger, fresh pineapple chunks (no residual juice suggesting anything from a can), and a dusting of parmesan all combining into a hot sweet party. 

Mix in some house spiced olive oil for the crispy (soft on the inside) crust or some hot honey (even better) and this one really wins. Spicy, sweet, cheesy (focused in the centre, a slight weakness), and quite saucy, I'm confident anyone outside of a vendetta against pineapple will find this pie exceptional.

#13 - Conspiracy Pizza - B++
176 Wicksteed Avenue

Sharing a building and kitchen with a seriously legit BBQ spot in Leaside, Conspiracy Pizza is a real good pizza spot on a damn obscure street. They also follow their name with some very clever topping combinations and the names thereof: Roswell, Bay of Pigs, Halifax Explosion, Grassy Knoll just to mention a few. 

I went for the Roswell (minus the olives), basically like a taco bowl meets a pizza. With so many toppings on many of their pies, Conspiracy uses a lighter touch: just a little bit of everything here and there, maintaining an intended overall flavour by not overwhelming you with one thing. Knowing they also sample many of their meats from Adamson BBQ next door, I was excited to try the pulled pork on the Roswell and holy pig man, even unsauced this thing is tender, loaded with smoke and melts in your mouth like a winter fling in the summer. What does that even mean? I don't know!

It's a phenomenal pizza, with great flavour, topping quality and combination barely matched by anyone. The crust though... man the crust. It only stands out because compared to the fact you're eating a pizza with of sour cream, cheese, green onions, ground beef and pulled pork and FRITOS and this whole thing somehow works magically, the crust is really unremarkable. It's just there, not soft and delicate or crunchy and fun, just generic and physically keeping the whole brilliance contained inside. It is what it is, get a dipping sauce I guess.

Seriously though, head up to this place or the BBQ spot. It's a weird trip (I biked up the DVP trail to get there) for a unique place and well worth it.

#12 - The Good Son (Assembly Chef's Hall) - A--
111 Richmond Street West

Now that we're in the 'A's', there won't be much quibbling about. These are really, really good pizzas and my biggest complaint about this particular spot is that they need more than four options available to order. I get the Chef's Hall is small and doesn't leave much space for things like prep, but man it's a shame to be left imagining how they'd handle some more creative pizza ideas.

Nevertheless this pizza is ridiculous. This had more salami than cheese on first thought, except the cheese jumps out at you in unexpected places, like to remind you it's still there and still delicious. There's a ton of soppressata, a ton of parmasean, all counteracted by a fat crust just meticulously sized so to absorb all those strong flavours. It's actually a pretty simple pizza and still that first bite will just pull you in. Maybe too much of everything, especially salami? Sure that makes it salty, but the quality of the salami also adds fat and spice as a counterpunch. In this realm it isn't as exciting on first glance as others but it will impress.

#11 - Cellar Door Restaurant - A--
3003 Lakeshore Boulevard


Escape From Mimico! Starring me as Sauce Pizzkin in the pie soaked streets of south Etobicoke. I (er, "Sauce") went to Mimico wanting to try Cellar but they were closed (on Tuesdays apparently). Considering the distance I wasn't sure I'd bother trying them, having to travel so far again to do so. Damn am I glad I reconsidered.

I will mention that even though I was getting take-out, the waiter and I still had a damn bizarre time interacting with each other through what you'd think would be an minimal encounter. He was like a Vulcan and my universal translator was malfunctioning. Still though, I asked for a side of tomato sauce (something I like to do when ordering a white pizza, get the best of both worlds) and while he was incredulous as to why I'd want such a thing, it came with my pizza and it was plentiful.

Just my luck a snowstorm had started while I was waiting inside for the pizza, so I had to wait for a precious, precious streetcar to get me back to Neville Park (I wanna go home!) and eat the pizza there. First bite... I went from feeling like a pizza crazed, obsessive article writing maniac to an innovative adventurist seeking the very best and succeeding. Prosciutto and arugula on a pizza is often fabulous, add a drizzle of honey and some perfectly creamy blobs of lightly peppered ricotta cheese... something wonderful happens my friends. The honey was slight but in every bite, the ricotta nicely oiled so to keep that important soft consistency, the arugula crisp fresh and the prosciutto the perfect salt accompaniment to this strong melange of leafy spice and sweet creamy flavours. Then the side tomato sauce, full of chunks of tomato and a touch of crunchy of bell pepper, yet smooth enough for easy dipping of crust, absolutely wonderful.

That crust was great also: soft and doughy, uncharred wood oven pie done to perfection. In my FBI write-up I mentioned I'd ride to Mimico when the weather gets good, well it's a tough call which place I'd go and Cellar probably has an upper hand. Just amazing pizza done magnificently. 

If you think I liked those last few, next up is the final ten. I'll try to use phrases beyond "uhmdhfdfdhfdhmygawd"         

Saturday, 2 March 2019

The Top Ranked Pizza In Toronto - #40-21

Lets keep this pie train moving. Here's where some real good ones chug on in.

#40 - ViVetha Bistro - B
2483 Queen Street East


An established spot in the east Beaches known for some damn fine delicious brunch specials, ViVetha has only recently entered the pizza game and it's up to that same standard. There isn't much in the way of crispiness, even in the crust, instead providing a soft cheesy, doughier texture. The sauce is herby, though a bit forgotten in that thick flavour of cheese, while the toppings (perhaps somewhat scarce) are of strong quality (the bacon in particular is exceptional). It's heavy, possibly too much foundation over surface, but tasty regardless.

Extra points! Being the second closest spot on the list to my house (just over 400 metres) but more importantly for providing a generous portion of solid complimentary garlic aioli (featured in the photo). And no, they didn't know I was a pizza critic or whatever this mad quest has made me into.

Hey, If you ever fall asleep on the Queen streetcar, wake up at Neville Park in the middle of the afternoon and your first thought is how hungry you are: ViVetha is right there waiting for you.

#39 - Terroni (Queen West) - B
720 Queen Street West


Confession: until only a few months ago I'd never tried Terroni. Even though back in my days of working at Libretto (when just Ossington existed) quite a few of my co-workers had come from various Terronis' and there were often discussions of which pie was better. Now these several years later, it was somewhat surreal to finally go and decide which one I preferred. 

My initial look at the menu was seriously intimidating: dozens of simple two/three topping combinations naming cheeses like this was a Monty Python sketch. Eventually I elected a sausage and smoked scamorza duo, flavourful yet without anything distinctive beyond juiciness or smokiness. The crust meanwhile is a complete non factor, begging for the olive oil on the side. 

Overall a pleasant experience and pleasant meal, but strangely unremarkable. Good, sure, but pales against more interesting options.

Also, the 'no substitutions' thing is damn pretentious. Blah blah.

#38 - Pizza Pide - B
949 Gerrard Street East

Here's a unicorn for the list and I bet some purists will object. I'm open minded though and since Turkish pizza basically declares itself as pizza (it's in the title c'mon), I gave this a shot and a spot.

What stands out most here is the crust/dough, which is like a delicious homemade pretzel with its buttery, salty smooth taste. The cheese is also quite nice, creamy and complimentary of the dry earthiness of the Turkish sausage slices. I would've liked a bit more quantity, as it was overall rather rich, heavy and yet not a lot of food. Pide is quite affordable at least (10-14ish bucks) and the garnishes on the side (and creamy sauce in house nearby) make good sidekicks for this interesting pie. 

Now if someone tells me I just fudged up and got a Turkish calzone by mistake... I'm firing my translator. Once I hire one, of course. 

#37 - Il Paesano Pizzeria and Restaurant - B
396 Browns Line


So I've discussed certain places happening to be super close to my house (the most definitely riveting part of these articles right?). Il Paesano wins that Opposite Crown: registering a whopping 24 kilometres(!) away. 

Walking in, it felt like one of those places untouched by the passage of time. Same walls, same colour scheme, the fellow at the take-out counter was seriously dressed in a tuxedo. Maybe I was back in the 80s, or the 40s. Who knows. A pleasant surprise: finding they offer single slices at an absurd three dollars(!). The last time I spent so little on a solitary slice must've been junior high (well beyond the 80s, though).

A low amount of sauce may be its biggest weakness, a shame because this is a naturally garlicy pie (you can see the seasoning in the photo). It's a soft slice with thickly sliced pepperoni (a nice touch) to add great texture against a heavy cheese/dough factor. Just nice, satisfyingly old school. It's amazing how a slice at Pizza Pizza can run you almost twice as much as one here and won't even taste half as good.

#36 - Frank's Pizza House - B
1352 St. Clair Avenue West

Frank's is another one of those places where you can just smell the familiarity in the air with the other folks there. As I was waiting for my pizza the fellow behind the counter (probably the owner) was chatting with someone the entire time debating various other pizza joints they liked/disliked. This nerdiness got me pretty quietly excited, but unfortunately that waned after the pizza finally came out and was seriously overcooked on one side. Kinda like feeling an outsider at some special old type pizza club (I'm sure they exist somewhere).

The pizza itself is quite solid, without anything truly outstanding (besides their generous load of toppings). Good classic pizza sauce is the most notable factor here (an explosively rich tomato taste), with good bready crust (on the side that wasn't overcooked) and solid salami. A well baked Toronto pizza. Maybe it's better if you're 'in the circle' though.

#35 - Apiecalypse Now! - B
735 Bloor Street West


A vegan pizza? On my list? Consider your mind blown.

Apiecalypse immediately wins points for their interior style, featuring a giant mural of a young Homer Simpson (mmmmm, doughnuts...) among other delights. The pizza itself? Well for the sake of fairness I'm glad I went with a friend who got a different slice than I. My choice was the daily special (a lasagna type slice) and it didn't work. The heavy noodle combined with stringy vegan cheese and a bean base was incredibly bland, with weird texture that my taste buds struggled to power through. My friend's slice, however, was a buffalo chicken imitation with way more going on: the 'chicken' had a juicy texture combined with the buffalo and a 'ranchy' sauce was enough of a definite winner to pull my grade here much higher. 

Bonus periphery points for a nice crust (like a peppery garlic finish) and a fantastic tzatziki-like-not-tzatziki dipping sauce. I wouldn't seek out vegan pizza specifically (cheese is too damn good) but this place has some very interesting ideas. Creativity and atmosphere pluses abound.

#34 - Local 1794 - B 
1794 Danforth Avenue


Not a place I was planning to try. Going up to the Danforth one recent day, my intention was towards Gerrard Pizza, only finding them inexplicably closed (unfortunately I never got another chance to try again before publishing this list). 

I remember Local 1794 for something about four years ago: I had a job interview there! This was a week before they even opened, so imagine my level of amusement to see the layout, decorations and general design to be mostly unchanged in 2019. It's trying really hard to be a fancy speakeasy, an overdone but still appealing look.

As far as the pizza, Local follows the trend of newish restaurants that don't focus on pizza necessarily, but feature a few wood-fired options nevertheless. This particular one is decidedly average for a wood-fired pie in regards to crust (good but slightly stale), sauce and cheese (present), but makes up for that with exceptional toppings. I'm a fan of wild boar sausage and this here, mixed in with nicely sliced bacon and oregano, fills this pizza with vivid, juicy high quality meatiness. Sort of funny to write that line after a vegan place, now that I think of it.

Another funny thought is how Local 1794 is absurdly next to #42 on the list, Trecce. They practically share a front patio.

#33 - Yeah Yeahs Pizza - B
1210 Yonge Street

No association.

Yeah Yeahs is a New York style pizza joint originally based out of Nova Scotia, having opened their second location here in the northern part of Rosedale. Like a good New York slice it keeps things simple: some light chili flake/pepper seasoning, greasy good cheese, sauce and big (spicy) soppressata. The crust is chewy and perfect if you're a maniac, I mean type, that likes to bite the crust and then centre of the slice. Also positive, how it's more saucy than oily: you won't need to wipe your hands every other bite.

I mentioned Superpoint as my dream 'arcade pizza' slice. Well during my visit to Yeah Yeahs back in December... boom! A Super Nintendo system setup, with controllers, rigged up to the original Mario Kart. Seeing as I hadn't played that game in maybe ten years (when my old SNES died... RIP) and I was alone in the whole place, I had to test my skills in a grand prix. This started out bad: I didn't even qualify to finish the first race on 100 cc in Mushroom Cup! 

But I got it together quick and won four of the next five to win the tournament. Phew, don't think my eleven year old self could ever forgive me.  

#32 - Chito's Pizza and Foods - B+** 
1308 Bloor Street West


This is one I really had to debate a lot, because if I'm rating places on their pizza alone... Chito's barely gets a C+.

So why all the way up here? Well they offer something very intriguing: fresh shawarma off the spit and onto your slice, and a lot of it. Maybe too much.

I won't grade or critique the shawarma itself (because this thing is about pizza, damn it) so what I'll say is that it enhances this pie in such an incredible way. This juicy chicken slathered all over an otherwise ordinary Hawaiian slice, plus their garlic and hot sauce (complimentary and also excessive), is a decadent attack of flavours. I felt like Hedonism Bot eating this thing. 

Sometimes combining two amazing foods simply will not work (ice cream on burgers!) or sometimes like here it's so successful you're shocked more places don't do it. I know others indeed do, but seeing how Chito's is well known and gets huge lineups, at Lansdowne of all places, I'll select them as my representative and call it a day. 

Before we continue, should a 'best pizza list' reward a place even when the best attribute of their pizza is something technically separate? Well that's my asterisk up there: deserving the spot but with a flag on the field. Also recall though that I've rewarded points already to places for other aspects beyond the pizza itself, such as atmosphere, side sauces and service. Also this thing is just so damn delicious, try it for yourself. 

#31 - Ristorante Rosina - B+
740A King Street West


Ah, Rosina. Quite possibly the best smelling pizza on the list, and my previous PiCo mention of not too many toppings doesn't apply here. This pie had so much on it I have to look up their website just to remember; pardon me a sec.

Still here? Wicked! Glad you stuck around. Anyhow the pizza I ordered was the 'Rosina' (geez why was that so hard to remember). Loaded with dollops of pesto, nduja paste, mushrooms and soppressata, this is a pizza with lots happening (something different with every bite, really). Spicy yet earthy with the mushrooms, while the pesto leans more towards subtle nutty basil methods of persuasion than oily garlic ones. The cheese is top notch here, squeaky yet oozing all over the pizza with excellent coverage. 

I know I've said this a lot but you must know what's coming: the crust/dough is the weakness. At this level of pizza, it's not a dealbreaker but all the other elements are here for an 'A-' grade at least. It falls short because of that damn cornmeal base (I say that a lot, too), giving this fantastic pie a gritty, gravel-like texture in your mouth. Maybe it's just me, again I don't even like bread with seeds in it. Next time at Rosina though, I might get a calzone. Great damn pizza, foiled by this writer's particular taste hangups.

#30 - (Locale) Mercatto - B+
330 Bay Street


As an outskirts living, professional part-timer who's been spending way too much damn money on pizza the past while... I don't eat on Bay Street basically ever. But the Mercatto chain/family/whatever is enough of a presence that well... worth a shot. Also since there are so many locations this is the lonely one appearing on the list: I figure even though each one has slightly different menus, they all aim for similar things and I'm skeptical the pizza is dramatically different from one to another.

Another entry on the 'wild boar sausage is delicious' list, 'Locale' does a standard Neapolitian pizza and executes it well. This is good wood-fired action, gaining points for sweet tomato sauce, good crisp crust, that wild boar (dry yet melting in your mouth) and cheap happy hour Negronis! My second ever Negroni and the first one I didn't make myself, so probably why this one actually tasted good. 

Strong service as well, as despite the place being packed I felt welcome sitting at the bar just being some dude ordering takeout. The pizza could use a bit more cheese and was somewhat flimsy (even for wood-fired) but otherwise a solid surprise.

#29 - Lambretta Pizzeria (Roncesvalles) - B+
89 Roncesvalles Avenue

Sometimes you're really good at something without being very interesting. Lambretta makes a damn fine pizza: I've been to both locations and either are extremely enjoyable experiences. The Queen East location has a great patio, Roncesvalles great decor and a nice big window to watch the neighbourhood pass by. 

Describing their pizza, my initial/most dominating thought is unremarkable excellence. Everything here is good: crisp arugula, sweet tomato sauce, good prosciutto, a crust cooked and charred like its done all the homework, all of it works really well. It's like your friend in school who studied hard without obsessing over it, always went to class, was super friendly, modestly popular and just missed the honour roll every semester by a percentage point or two. You'll walk away glad, satisfied and happy to revisit a real solid friend. Those times just won't stick out as much as with others. Unremarkable excellence. 

#28 - General Assembly - B+
331 Adelaide Street West

Sometimes you're just at the wrong place at the wrong time. By this I don't mean General Assembly itself, I mean I was crossing the street with this pizza you see above when a car turned towards me, sped up as he got closer and then threatened me before I could even ask this lobotomy patient where the hell his brain was. And we yelled at each other, suggested graphic harm upon one another, I kicked his stupid ass car in the back, you know fun downtown Toronto stuff. Luckily this creep was also a coward and we didn't actually come to blows (can't think of many more deserving of a pizza box edge across the face). This was obviously a very sour experience and unfairly associated in my memory with GA pizza.

I don't subtract points from the pizza itself for that of course (that would be stupid). For me, GA is a tale of two very different pies I tried. The first was a spicy Hawaiian style, with thinly shaved jalepenos, real smokey greasey bacon, maybe too heavy on the pineapple (heavy sweetness) which was offset by lumps of creamy ricotta and a solid foundation of thin dough and steady mozzarella. I was so impressed GA had a spot in my early Top Ten for quite some time until this league of extraordinary pies became crowded.

My second taste (the one pictured above, and also witness to that altercation) was a lamb sausage pizza, loaded with spices and herbs (like a lamb gyro meets a pizza). Again the thin cheese/dough combination was a strength, as was the unique flavour. The sauce though is fairly generic, while the lamb (oily and well seasoned) was so damned greasy it dripped off my slices whenever gravity said hello. The creamy drizzle, while an stylish touch, really didn't add anything either. 

Overall I'd say: this is a good little spot with some affordable (though very small pizzas all) and creative ideas. When it works it really works, when it doesn't it's still... good.    

#27 - 850 Degrees Pizzeria - B+
3455 Lakeshore Avenue West

Well great. I took so long trying these spots that one went up and closed on me (more on that later). Fortunately this one had twins (the newer Bloor West is the toast one) and their original Mimico spot is still going strong. Naturally I'd tried the Bloor one... sigh. 

Okay... the likelihood that the pizza offered at either location is so similar, maybe even identical, that this will still work. Yes/no? Whatever! I am not going to Mimico again until snowstorms stop greeting me as I arrive. 

I tried 850 (Bloor) in November (it was super dead, sadly foreboding it would seem) and got myself a pizza a local friend later that evening described as "pita with stuff on it". Isn't that like every pita since the dawn of pita time? 

I'll disagree, even though this photo above gives that assertion no favours of dissuasion. A place that makes something simple into something delicious is a winner though: this pie has only three things on it (no sauce) yet it works fantastically. The rapini is tasty bitter with a hint of olive oil and garlic, the sausage tender (it looks undercooked in the photo but it was fine). Add a consistent mozzarella base and a really good, outwardly crunchy inwardly soft crust. Sealing the deal is how tasty it remains while cold, and a complimentary side of chili oil/marinated peppers you see there, a real nice contrast to the subtle flavour combination working here. 

#26 - Victory Cafe - B+
440 Bloor Street West


Building this list as I went, I imagined certain moments where people might say "What? That place is that high? He's completely out of his mind!"

I confess though, having Victory this high feels weird, but the pizza is seriously good. Part of me suspects they just kept the wood oven left over from the old 'Hey Lucy' location and made it their own. Good call, because I was impressed. 

The occasion on which I went is, in retrospect, pretty awkward considering recent events, but this was a good night. Victory is known for great local beer selection, not pizza. This pie though just works: plentiful cheese (goat cheese with mozzarella will make so many things better), mushrooms for some nice oily earthiness and the prosciutto man, just 'melt in your mouth with every bite' kind of stuff. The sauce is average and not much of a factor, though there's enough else going on here it's not a critical complaint. I may be out of my mind (don't answer that), either way this one is a winner.

#25 - Indie Ale House - B+
2876 Dundas Street West


Two more spots known more for beer than pizza, back to back? I swear I don't do this stuff on purpose. It doesn't matter anyway since we're getting to where these pizzas have fewer and fewer flaws to pick at.

Indie Ale House is a spot in the Junction known for really, really fabulous beer brewed in-house with a strong food menu designed to compliment said beer. I was reviewing pizza on this occasion, as much fun as reviewing beer would be (wait, I shouldn't give myself ideas like that. This was hard enough). 

Their pizza wins points for creativity more than anything. The elements here are solid: plentiful sauce, weirdly twisted soft crust, wild boar sausage on point (I have my favs) and globs of red pepper infused ricotta/light cream cheese gave nice contrast to the assertive other tastes. It's a real heavy pizza and I'm ashamed to confess I couldn't finish the whole thing in one sitting, even while drinking a beer! (Feel free to restrict my machoness points indefinitely). 

Indie has no glaring flaw, only it's a bit too much once you get to that third or fourth slice. This is that fundamentally sound, out of shape utility guy on your team. Meanwhile the real heavy hitters are waiting on deck.

#24 - True True Pizza - B+
169 King Street East


True true story: I tried True True on a truly tremendously torturous day traveling home from a trying work time. Heh. True True is thin rectangle pizza I was not particularly optimistic about trying (likely due to my rotten mood). Counter to that expectation, yeah I was impressed. The thinness makes it look almost too delicate to eat, especially loaded with toppings (and cilantro? That's a new one). Yet it works. Pictured is another spicy Hawaiian, and True hits that right balance of crispy salty meats, sweetness from the pineapple and punchy spice with those little red oily chilies. There's good balance between such easily conflicting flavours, the soft thinness of it bringing those toppings to the forefront even more so. There's also enough sauce and cheese that it still tastes like a pizza at its core instead of a flatbread, and the grated parmesan all over gives it a more professional finish (since it looks like it's served on a cafeteria tray).

The service wasn't very welcoming (they seemed peeved I'd popped in half an hour before they closed) which is discouraging. Otherwise well done.

#23 - Gusto 101 - B+
101 Portland Street


Possibly one of the most physically awkward pizzas I've had to eat. It's a real grower though. First of all the presentation just looks beautiful: the single basil leaf in the centre, the islands of mozzarella floating in vividly red sauce, the smoked slightly transparent provolone draped atop the spherical meatballs while the perfectly round crust brings everything around. I almost felt bad eating it, almost.

The pizza doesn't taste as good as it looks (because it might take the top prize if it did), but has some serious strengths. Buttery cheese, the smokiness of the provolone and the juicy um, meatiness of the meatballs all combine into some highly anticipated bites. Some good sauce in a good amount (flavourwise it 'more happens to be there' than anything), while the crust is a bit harsh to travel through. Strong points for the cheese, the meatballs (again quite tasty) and the presentation. 

#22 - Mattachioni - B+
1617 Dupont Street


Whaddyou mean I have to cut my own pizza? I'm hot! In all seriousness, Mattachioni is a spot near the end of Dupont (westward) that feels like half cafe, half sit down restaurant, half grocery store and half farmer's market. Whaddyou mean that doesn't add up? Where's my schweater....

Everybody, there is a lot of really good pizza in this city. Trust me I know! At this point, it's challenging to pick apart a strong B+. There just isn't anything critically unpleasant going on here: The sauce is super sweet (like tomatoes stewed in house), the cheeses (mozza and stracciatella bufala drizzled with olive oil) very creamy and powerful, the prosciutto... tasty like prosciutto almost always is (maybe somewhat dry but still delicious). You know the basil on this pie tasted like they picked it out from their back garden that morning, that's how fresh it was.

Fine, the crust is merely ok. That knocks it slightly. Whatever, this pizza is simple and simply fantastic.

#21 - Big House Pizza - B+***
962 Danforth Avenue

Prepare to throw your stones: I hate onions. Cannot stand em. Green onions are fine, or deliciously caramelized onions (soft and brown and sweet) but any other onion? Enemies until death.

Unfortunately I misread Big House's menu when I first tried them and out came a Philly Cheesesteak style pizza loaded with onions (which it obviously should be, whoops). Despite the presence of my little tricky foes, this pizza was incredible. A cream cheese base, a garlic buttered crust (god damn one of the best crusts I ever had), banana peppers and super tender bits of steak. I cannot say enough about that crust: so crispy like a baguette and a superb accompaniment to the creamy steak action happening all around. Phenomenal stuff.

*** Big House is actually shutting down after Sunday March 3rd (real damn soon) and so get the word out to east end folks or if you otherwise happen to be in the area. Pop in if you can, grab a beer at the nearby Only Cafe (you can bring the pizza inside there) and just give these guys one last try. Here's hoping they're able to find a new location sooner rather than later.   

Next up: the front half of the final 20.