Descendant: Still Some of the Best Pizza in the City

Descendant PizzaLocation: 1168 Queen Street East, Toronto
Website: http://descendantdsp.com/

Though I generally like to visit places I haven’t tried when I eat out, exceptions have to be made.  Especially in the case of a restaurant serving food as great as Descendant, which makes superb Detroit-style pizza.  It’s a strong contender for the best pizza in the city.

And yeah, it’s still great.

I tried a couple of pizzas — the Gatt-Daddy (“house made fennel sausage, Mama Lil’s Peppers, red onion, sauce, basil aioli, fresh parsley & basil”) and the Jaffna (“kothu roti, mango chutney, cilantro cream, green onion, Calabrian chilis, fresh cilantro, coconut sambol”).

Descendant Pizza

Orrdering a pizza as bizarrely topped as the Jaffna might be a dicey proposition at a lesser pizza joint — but Descendant is not a lesser pizza joint.  Aside from making technically superb pizzas, Descendant does an amazing job of taking seemingly bizarre flavour combos and doing something special with them.  The Jaffna is sweet, spicy, savoury, and tangy in all the best ways.

The Gatt-Daddy is more traditional, and of course, they knock it out of the park.

Descendant Pizza

It helps that the pizza itself is so good — the crust is delightfully crispy on the bottom, and dense enough to hold up to the voluminous toppings while still being delightfully fluffy and amazing.  It’s a balancing act, and one that Descendant pulls of beautifully.

And of course, there’s that Detroit-style pizza trademark — the ring of dark, crispy goodness around the pizza where the cheese has come into contact with the square pan.  It’s so good.

Disappointment at General Assembly Pizza

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

The last time I checked out General Assembly Pizza, I noted that the crust didn’t quite have the level of chew that you’re looking for; sadly, that issue has not gotten any better.  If anything, it’s worse.

Their current special is a TIFF-inspired pizza called the Pink Panther: “rose sauce, shrimp, lemon, red jalapeno, garlic, scallion, mozzarella.”

General Assembly Pizza

It’s not bad.  The flavours all work together relatively well, and the shrimp is perfectly cooked.  But it’s an off-kilter pizza, and unlike the off-kilter pies at a place like Descendant, I kinda wished I was eating something a bit more traditional.  Nothing about it particularly pops.

Still, it’s tasty enough — aside from the crust.  As you can see from the photo, it’s perfectly cooked, with a delightful amount of char from the hot oven.  But it lacks substance, and it’s kinda bland.  It almost dissolves in your mouth; you barely even have to chew it.

General Assembly Pizza

I also tried the General Bread from the Snacks portion of the menu, which is described as “aged mozzarella, grana, garlic, aleppo pepper, wild oregano.”  It had the same issues with the dough, but it’s loaded with enough cheese and garlic (not to mention the tomato dipping sauce) to overcome the crust’s deficiencies.  It’s quite good.

(Mostly) Tasty Eats at The Ex

The ExLocation: 210 Princes’ Boulevard, Toronto
Website: https://theex.com/

Though I haven’t been in a couple of years, I enjoy going to the Ex.  I mean, they have an enormous building dedicated entirely to food, not to mention vendor after vendor selling junky carnival food, so of course I enjoy it.

I didn’t get to try quite as much as I would have liked (this stuff was all extremely heavy), but I sampled a few things.

The Ex

The Big Chief from Porkies Sandwich Co.

This place specializes in porchetta and pork belly, and serves a sandwich that’s crammed with both of them.  The two meats are topped with caramelized onions, arugula, provolone, salsa verde, and chipotle mayo.  It’s not bad — the two types of pork are a bit bland and textureless (they’re super tender, but there are zero crispy bits or crackling), but they’re still porky and satisfying.  The cheese was unmelted and basically added nothing to the sandwich, but the onions and the sauces are tasty and do a good job of cutting through the extreme richness of the belly and the porchetta.  I will say, however, that this might have been the greasiest sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my life.  Grease was leaking everywhere.

The Ex

Scorpion Burrito from Burrito Co.

Though Burrito Co. advertises this as “Canada’s hottest burrito,” that’s a dubious claim; the burrito itself is barely spicy at all.  It does, however, come with a tiny dropper filled with a legitimately fiery hot sauce.  This stuff isn’t kidding around, though I wish they had added it right into the burrito, because having to reapply it every couple of mouthfuls was a bit of a pain.  As for the burrito itself, it was fine, I guess?  It was decent enough, but nothing about it particularly stands out (other than the comically absurd $19.25 price tag).

The Ex

Pickle Pizza from Rick’s Pizza

This is the only thing I tried that was outside of the food building.  The slice is basically exploding with pickle flavour; it’s topped with pickle slices, and features dill ranch instead of tomato sauce.  It’s a novelty food and it tastes like a novelty food, but it’s actually kind of satisfying.  The pickles are nice and zingy, and the pizza itself is decent.  I don’t know that I’d want to eat this all the time — but isn’t that the whole point of carnival food?  If it’s something you’d want to eat on a regular basis, it’s probably not doing its job.

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.

Bizarre Pizza at Big Trouble Pizza

Big Trouble PizzaLocation: 235 Spadina Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.bigtroublepizza.com/

The dessert pizza at Big Trouble Pizza — called the Butter Jam Jam — is quite odd.  It features raspberry jam, butter cream, bocconcini cheese, mozzarella cheese, balsamic reduction, and lemon zest.

It sounds kinda absurd, and… yeah, it’s absurd.  I was hoping it would be one of those things that sounds weird but is actually great; no such luck.

Big Trouble Pizza

It’s not bad, though.  It’s generally tasty enough — all of the components are good — but the flavours/textures never quite cohere in any meaningful way.  It’s a little too salty for something that’s supposed to be a dessert, and nothing about it particularly pops.

Big Trouble Pizza

It tastes like something you might whip up in a moment of bizarre inspiration (perhaps under the influence of a certain substance that was just legalized) and then, once you actually try it, never make again.

Still, I didn’t dislike eating it, I guess.  And the crust was actually quite good, with a light exterior crispiness, and a pleasantly chewy interior.  It definitely makes me want to go back and try one of the traditional pizzas.