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.

An Amazing Vegetarian Sandwich at Black Camel

Black CamelLocation: 4 Crescent Road, Toronto
Website: https://www.blackcamel.ca/

If it weren’t for Toronto Life’s list of the best sandwiches in the city, never in a million years would it have occurred to me to try the roasted veggie sandwich at Black Camel.  I suppose I’m indebted to the list, because the sandwich was quite delicious.

Black Camel is a little take-out sandwich shop that specializes in tender, slow-roasted beef brisket and pork sandwiches (they also have chicken, steak, and a BLT).

I had assumed that the roasted veggie sandwich was more of a perfunctory, vegetarian-appeasing menu-filler than something anyone would actually want to order.

Black Camel

I was super duper wrong.  The veggie sandwich was just as good as their other offerings.  Maybe better.

The sandwich consists of roasted roma tomatoes, red pepper, and eggplant, with some peppery arugula for good measure.  It’s served on a soft, fresh bun.

Black Camel

You can choose from a variety of sauces; Toronto Life recommended the Charamoula sauce, which the menu describes as a “Moroccan-inspired mayonnaise [that] blends the flavours of garlic, cilantro, lemon juice, and smoked paprika into a one-of-a-kind topping.”  The list also recommended adding Fontina cheese, and who am I to argue with the list?

It’s a fantastic sandwich.  The veggies are all tender but not mushy, with a nice herby flavour.  They’re sweet, savoury, and absolutely crammed with flavour.

Black Camel

But it’s the Charamoula mayo that’s clearly the star of the show.  It’s zesty, spicy, and incredibly assertive without being overwhelming.  It’s one of those sauces that would make practically anything taste good; the fact that the veggies themselves are quite tasty is just a bonus.

The mild Fontina cheese adds a nice creaminess that only ups the richness from the silky mayo.  It’s a shockingly delicious sandwich.

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).