Hit-or-Miss Pizza at Nonna’s Oven

Nonna's OvenLocation: 1285 Elgin Mills Road East, Richmond Hill
Websitehttp://www.nonnasoven.com/

Nonna’s Oven is an Italian joint specializing in pizza (they also have pasta and sandwiches, though the pizza seems to be the main attraction) with locations in Richmond Hill and Oakville.  It’s not bad, but it’s probably not worth going out of your way for.

Nonna's Oven

We started with the frittura mista — a plate piled high with deep fried chunks of calamari, cuttlefish, shrimp, scallops, and whitefish.  This was mostly pretty good, though the squid was rubbery (everything was a bit overcooked) and the cuttlefish had an unpleasantly fishy funk.

Still, it’s hard to go wrong with anything that’s battered and deep fried, especially when the batter is as light and crispy as it is here.

Nonna's Oven

The pizzas were a bit of a mixed bag.  The first was the Margherita Italiana (“homemade tomato sauce, topped with fior di late cheese, fresh basil and light drizzled olive oil”).  The thing about a margherita pizza is that it’s so incredibly simple that if all the elements aren’t on point (the crust in particular), then it’s not going to be particularly good.

And the crust is definitely an issue here; it’s ultra thin and crispy, with absolutely no substance outside of a crispy crunch.  It’s basically like eating tomato sauce and cheese on a really bland cracker.  It’s not great.

Nonna's Oven

The Hawaiian Inferno pizza (“pineapple, bacon, onion and hot banana peppers”) was definitely the better of the two.  The more cheese- and topping-heavy pizza helped to compensate for the bland, crackery crust, and the toppings all worked pretty well together.

In the case of both pizzas, the real MVP was the jar of fiery chili oil they had on the table.  It had little bits of hot peppers, and if you got a heaping spoonful of the peppers and the oil, it really kicked things up and helped to make everything a bit more interesting.

Quality Noodle Soup at Big Beef Bowl

Big Beef BowlLocation: 8362 Kennedy Road, Unionville
Website: None

Big Beef Bowl is another place that serves fresh, chewy noodles, which means I’m pretty much going to love it by default.  I’m very easy to please when it comes to a big bowl of delicious noodles.

Big Beef Bowl

I got the braised beef brisket noodles, which comes with your choice from six types of noodles: round or flat, with three thicknesses each.  I got the round noodles in a medium thickness.  And they were great — they might have been ever-so-slightly too soft, but they were otherwise hearty and chewy and satisfying.

Big Beef Bowl

The soup itself wasn’t anything too special, but it got the job done.  It was a bit spicy by default, but was improved immeasurably by a few hearty spoonfuls of the chili oil they’ve got on the table.  You always have to be careful with that particular condiment, because depending on the place, its spiciness ranges from a moderate tingle to volcano hot.   The one at Big Beef Bowl isn’t particularly spicy, but it has a satisfying toasty flavour that really improves the soup.

There were also several chunks of fatty, immensely tender beef brisket.  I could have eaten a whole pile of these.

Satisfying Noodle Soup at GB Hand-Pulled Noodles

GB Hand-Pulled NoodlesLocation: 66 Edward Street, Toronto
Website: None

I’ve mentioned before that chewy hand-pulled noodles are basically the best thing ever.  That continues to be true.  That’ll be true forever.  Hundreds of years from now, when the robots complete their bloody uprising and have wiped out the human race, it’ll continue to be true.  Even robots will enjoy hand-pulled noodles.  Because they’re the best.

And if you’re craving hand-pulled noodles and don’t feel like venturing out into the ‘burbs, you could certainly do worse than GB Hand-Pulled Noodles.

GB Hand-Pulled Noodles

They have a few things on the menu, though the main attraction here is the noodle soup.  You can choose your noodle thickness from seven (!) different options, which range from “super thin” to “extremely wide.”  I went with narrow thick, which is right in the middle.

The soup itself is fine, though it is a bit one-note salty (no one around me finished their broth, nor did I).  The prodigious amount of tasty chili oil that they serve it with certainly helps, but it’s clear that the soup is more of a vehicle for the noodles than something anyone would particularly enjoy on its own.

GB Hand-Pulled Noodles

Aside from the noodles, the other highlight is the thinly-sliced beef, which is tender and flavourful.  The beef at noodle joints like this tends to be hit-and-miss, so I appreciated the level of quality here.

But of course, the reason you’re here is those noodles, which get expertly pulled in full view of the dining room.

GB Hand-Pulled Noodles

The narrow thick noodles that I picked basically look like a particularly weighty spaghetti.  They were chewy, toothsome, and outstanding.  Even by the standards of hand-pulled noodles, these were particularly firm and substantial; I was on the fence about them at first, but they quickly won me over.