Quick Bites: Pizzeria Via Napoli, Ikkoi Japanese Family Cuisine, Nani’s Gelato

Pizzeria Via Napoli
Margherita pizza from Pizzeria Via Napoli

I suppose you could order something from a Neapolitan pizza joint that isn’t a margherita pizza, but why would you?  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s the perfect food.  It’s also a great test of a restaurant’s chops, because it’s so simple that if your technique isn’t on point, and if the ingredients you’re working with aren’t great, it’s going to show.  Pizzeria Via Napoli’s version absolutely hits it out of the park; the crust is flavourful, perfectly chewy, and has a good amount of char on its exterior (including the bottom of the slice).  And the other ingredients are just right.  Margherita test: passed!

Ikkoi Japanese Family Cuisine
Ramen from Ikkoi Japanese Family Cuisine

Speaking of food that’s perfect: ramen.  It’s the best.  I ordered the tonkotsu ramen from Ikkoi (they serve several other styles of ramen, along with sushi and other Japanese standbys), and it’s pretty decent.  Is it the best bowl of ramen that I’ve ever had?  No; their menu is so broad that they’re probably spreading themselves a bit thin.  But there’s also absolutely nothing wrong with it.  I wouldn’t go out of my way for it, but if you’re in the area and you’re craving a bowl of ramen, it’s worth a shot.

Nani's Gelato
Dark Chocolate Oreo at Nani’s Gelato

Nani’s continues to be great.  I don’t particularly feel the need to write about Nani’s every time I eat there, because I think it’s fairly clear by this point that I think Nani’s serves some truly stellar gelato.  But I would like to note that, even though it’s not technically on the menu, Nani’s does have a kids size cup that’s pretty much the perfect amount if you’re not super hungry.  It’s the same size cup as the small, but the gelato pretty much only goes to the brim instead of being mounded way up.  I’m not sure why they don’t advertise this size, but I’m definitely glad I know it exists.  And now you do too!

Tasty Sourdough Pizzas at The Hole in the Wall

The Hole in the Wall
Location
: 2867A Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: https://theholeinthewallto.ca/

The Hole in the Wall is a delightful little spot in the Junction (with a fairly generous streetside patio) that specializes in various sourdough shenanigans: they’ve got sourdough loaves, sourdough bagels, and what I ordered — sourdough pizza.

The Hole in the Wall

I tried a couple of pizzas: the margherita (“fior di latte, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, tomato sauce”) and the cacio e pepe (“white base, zucchini, pecorino, black pepper”).

The Hole in the Wall

They were both delicious.  As you’d expect from a place that specializes in sourdough, the crust was stellar — it’s got a great balance between fluffiness and chewiness, and a nice sourdough flavour that really pops.  It’s a crispier than a standard Neapolitan-style pizza, but it totally works.

The Hole in the Wall

It’s also very aggressively charred, but it never crosses the line into burnt territory.  The char adds a subtle bitterness that contrasts nicely with the more flavourful dough.

The Hole in the Wall

As for the pizzas themselves, they were both great (and translating the creamy, peppery bite of cacio e pepe to a pizza is actually fairly ingenious), though not surprisingly, I preferred the margherita.  I’ve said it many times before — I think a good margherita pizza is a perfect food, and this was a very good one.

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.

Tasty Pies at General Assembly Pizza

General Assembly PizzaLocation: 331 Adelaide Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.gapizza.com/

After my horrifying Pizzeria Libretto experience, I wondered: am I being too picky?  Was Libretto actually not that bad?  Are my expectations just way too high?

Thank you, General Assembly Pizza, for letting me know that I’m not crazy.  Pizzeria Libretto was indeed terrible.  I am still capable of enjoying pizza.

General Assembly Pizza

They’re certainly not the best I’ve ever had, but the pizzas they’re serving here are all-around solid.

The first thing you notice is the even char on the crust; clearly, the temperature/time in the oven is just right.  Remember the disturbing photo of the colourless bottom of the slice from my Libretto post?  Here’s what the bottom of a slice of pizza should look like:

General Assembly Pizza

That’s not to say that the crust here was perfect.  I liked the subtle crispiness on its exterior, but it didn’t quite have the chewiness that you’re looking for, and it was a bit bland.  It wasn’t quite at the Wonder Bread level of Libretto’s crust, but it was definitely lacking.

The toppings do a pretty great job of hiding the crust’s shortcomings, however.  I tried three pizzas: Sweet Heat (tomato, mozzarella, hot salami, chili, honey, basil), Falco Sausage (tomato, parmesan, sausage, red onion, bread crumb, garlic, black pepper, chili flake, basil), and Garden Smash (tomato, squash eggplant mash, red onion, spring onion, garlic, sesame, basil).

General Assembly Pizza

All three were quite tasty, with a great sweet/salty contrast on the Sweet Heat, and a nice savoury punch on the Falco Sausage.  Even the Garden Smash — a cheeseless pizza, which I was deeply skeptical about — was fairly satisfying (though I still missed the cheese).

You can also kick things up with a nicely potent chili oil they have on the side.  I strongly recommend that you do this; it’s great.

Pizzeria Libretto, or: The Inventor of Pizza is Rolling in His Grave

Pizzeria Libretto
Location: 545 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://pizzerialibretto.com/

So, here’s a not-so-delightful tidbit: apparently I’ve ruined Neapolitan-style pizza for myself by eating my way through Naples for a week, because I just got a margherita pizza from Pizzeria Libretto, and it was hot garbage.

I didn’t think the gulf in quality would be so severe, but absolutely everything about this pizza was wrong.  The proportion of sauce was off, but in a really baffling way — the pizza was simultaneously too dry, and too soft.  It was weird.  The flavour of the sauce was about right (the sauce in this style of pizza is just plain tomatoes, so it’s hard to mess up), but I don’t think there was enough of it.

Pizzeria Libretto

The cheese was okay, but again, the texture was off.  It was too dry.  It’s hard for me to put my finger on what exactly was wrong, because I’m not a pizza expert, but something was clearly wrong.  None of the pizzas in Naples developed brown spots on the cheese like this one, and the texture was slightly rubbery.

The worst offender was the crust.  It was somehow over-charred around the edges — it was unpleasantly bitter in spots — and under-charred on the bottom.  I mean, look at the almost entirely colourless bottom of this slice:

Pizzeria Libretto

That’s not right.  It was insanely bland, and had barely a fraction of the amazing chew that the pizzas in Naples had.  It was like Wonder Bread; there’s no there there.

Everything else was quite good, at least.  The buttermilk fried calamari featured a perfectly crispy, tasty exterior encasing squid with a great balance of tenderness and bite.  It came with some really tasty romesco sauce that accompanied it perfectly.

Pizzeria Libretto

I also tried the Prosciutto di Parma, and like the calamari, it was quite delicious.  Granted, all the restaurant had to do was slice it, but it was very tasty nonetheless.

Pizzeria Libretto

But that pizza, though.  What was that??  It was disastrously bad.  It was like the Neapolitan pizza equivalent of Pizza Pizza.  Actually, it was worse than Pizza Pizza, because at least Pizza Pizza knows what it is and doesn’t have any delusions of grandeur.