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.

Unique Brunch at Byblos Uptown

Byblos UptownLocation: 2537 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://byblosuptown.com/

Brunch is great, no doubt about it.  Eggs Benedict, pancakes, French toast — all tasty stuff.  But sometimes you want something a bit different, and if that’s the case, the Middle-Eastern-influenced brunch menu at Byblos fits the bill quite nicely.

Byblos Uptown

We started with the Turkish Manti Dumplings (“eggplant + yogurt sauce + date molasses”), which was easily the weakest dish of the three I tried.  The yogurt/molasses sauce was one-note sweet and tangy, and the dumplings were basically pure mush.  There was almost no distinction in texture between the wrapper and the creamy filling.

Byblos Uptown

Up next was the Eggplant Kibbeh: “zucchini flower + baharat + chickpea batter.”  This was interesting.  Kibbeh is a Middle Eastern dish made from spiced ground beef; it’s essentially a fried meatball stuffed with more meat.

Byblos Uptown

The vegetarian version they serve here has only the most vague kibbeh-like properties, but it’s tasty for what it is; it’s nicely spiced, and the creamy filling contrasts well with the crispy fried exterior.

Byblos Uptown

My main meal was the Bastirma Khachapuri: “manouri cheese + egg + guindilla + urfa chili.”  This was basically a Turkish pide filled with cheese, eggs, and bastirma, a cured meat that’s generally thought to be the precursor to pastrami.

Byblos Uptown

It was pretty tasty — it was freshly baked, with a nice crispy exterior and a chewy interior.  It’s not the best pide you’ll ever eat, but of course, the combo of cheese, eggs, and salty cured meat is a winner.  That’s always going to be a winner.  It’s hard to go wrong there.

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.

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.