Quality Neapolitan Pizza at Sip Wine Bar

Sip Wine BarLocation: 2 Broadway Avenue, Toronto
Website: http://www.sipwinebar.ca/

I wound up at Sip Wine Bar entirely because the restaurant I was supposed to be visiting turned out to be closed (RIP to the Yonge Street location of Via Mercanti), so I’ll admit that my expectations weren’t particularly high.

Sip Wine Bar

They went even lower once I tried the appetizer, a decent but uninspired bruschetta that basically defines the word “meh.”

Sip Wine Bar

But I actually quite enjoyed the pizza.  I ordered the margherita, because as I’ve said before, it is the king of pizzas and one of the world’s few perfect foods.  It’s also a great test of a pizza joint’s ability, because there are no fancy toppings to hide behind.  If the quality of your dough and your technique aren’t on point, it’s game over.

Sip Wine Bar

Sip Wine Bar definitely passed that test.  It’s not the best pizza I’ve ever had, but every element was right where it should be — in particular, the crust was great.  It had a good amount of flavour and a great chew, and enough char to give it some personality without overwhelming.  The ratio of sauce and cheese was also quite satisfying.  It was a quality suh.

Pizza and Gelato at Eataly

EatalyLocation: 55 Bloor Street West, Toronto (inside the Manulife Centre)
Website: https://www.eataly.ca/

After years and years of speculation and hype, Eataly finally opened in Toronto last month; judging by the intense crowds, it’s a hit.  Apparently there were lines just to get in for the first few weeks, and on a recent visit on Saturday, the place was absolutely packed.

Eataly

So was it worth the wait?  It’s hard to say based on one relatively brief visit, but I’m gonna say yeah, it was.  It’s basically an enormous, high-end Italian grocery store crossed with a food hall.  They sell all kinds of really interesting looking stuff, and all the food I tried was tasty.  It’s delightful.

I tried a couple of things.  First up was a pizza at La Pizza & La Pasta, a sit-down restaurant with a wood-burning oven that pumps out authentic Neapolitan pizzas.

Eataly

The meal started with some seriously good-quality bread, which came with a bowl of intensely nutty olive oil for dipping.

As for the pizza, I had to try the margherita.  As I’ve said before, I think it’s one of the world’s few perfect foods.  It’s also a great way to judge the quality of a pizza joint; its simplicity puts the technique of the kitchen in full display.  There’s no fancy ingredients to hide behind.

Eataly

The version they serve here didn’t blow me away — the crust was slightly lacking in substance and flavour — but it was a solid B+.  In particular, the pizza had a perfect amount of char from the blazing hot oven.   The person manning the oven clearly knows what he’s doing.

Eataly

Just around the corner from the restaurant is Il Gelato Artigianale, which has a whole bunch of tasty-looking flavours of gelato on offer.  I went with stracciatella, and I quite enjoyed it.

Eataly

I found it a bit overly sweet at first, but the combo of the sweet ice cream and the very bitter chocolate (they’re definitely using a darker chocolate than the norm) won me over.  And the gelato itself is nice and creamy, even if it was slightly on the thin side.

Tasty Pizza at Goodfellas Wood Oven Pizza

Goodfellas Wood Oven PizzaLocation: 209 Queen Street South, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.goodfellaspizza.ca/

I mentioned, in my review of Pi Co., that I think a Margherita pizza is one of the world’s few perfect foods.  I’m at the point now where if I see a Margherita pizza on a menu, I pretty much have to order it.

Aside from the fact that it’s great (don’t even argue about that unless you want me to challenge you to a old-fashioned duel), it’s the easiest way to gauge the quality of a pizza joint.

Goodfellas Wood Oven Pizza

There’s no hiding behind fancy toppings or sauces; it’s just crust, plain tomato sauce, mozzarella, olive oil, and basil.  You have to know your way around a pizza (and a pizza oven), or you’re probably going to mess it up.

And Goodfellas definitely passes the Margherita test, though I will admit that I got very concerned when I saw the waiter bringing a neighbouring table a pizza with a crust that looked flat, colourless, and horrible.  I was ready to dive out the nearest window and then run until my legs gave out from under me — but then I heard a reference to gluten-free, and all was right again.

Goodfellas Wood Oven Pizza

If you can’t (or won’t) eat gluten, maybe don’t eat pizza?  Don’t ruin something great for yourself by eating whatever the hell that was.  It looked truly dire.

Thankfully, the actual, non-gluten-free pizza is pretty great.  The proportion of cheese and sauce is just right, and the crust is top notch (ah, sweet sweet gluten).  It was slightly over-charred in spots and maybe a touch too dense, but it was still very tasty.

It had just the right amount of crispiness without being too crunchy, and a satisfying chewiness that contrasts very nicely with the sauce and the cheese.  Like all Margherita pizzas, it’s simple, but hard to resist.

Great Margherita Pizza at Pi Co.

Pi Co.Location: 1200 Bay Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.pi-co.ca/

Fact: a margherita pizza, done well, is the best pizza.  It’s just crust, sauce, cheese, basil, and olive oil, but when it’s done well, it all comes together in a way that feels magical.  It’s one of the world’s few perfect foods.

Pi Co. does it well.

Pi Co.

The restaurant itself is actually pretty interesting — it’s mostly a take-out joint, and aside from the margherita, they don’t have any pre-topped pizzas.

The restaurant is set up almost like a Subway, with a variety of toppings behind glass that you can choose from on the spot.  And the Neopolitan-style pies bake fast, so you can be in and out surprisingly quickly, despite the fact that they’re starting every pizza from scratch.

Pi Co.

It’s quite good.  A pizza like this lives and dies by its crust; the crust here was solid, with a satisfying chew, a decent amount of flavour, and a nice blistery exterior.  The external crisp factor could have been slightly higher, but that’s a very minor complaint.

Everything else was great, with a nice balance of sauce and cheese.  It’s not the best margherita I’ve ever had, but it’s pretty damn satisfying (again: it’s a perfect food).

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.