The Toronto Pizza Hunt

9 Sep

The waiter overheard us discussing another pizza joint we had tried a few weeks earlier. Specifically, he overheard us mention the fact that the owner was Turkish, and he offered flatbreads in addition to pizzas. The waiter had been somewhat short with us during our meal, but upon hearing “Turkish” and “wood-fired pizza” in the same sentence, he correctly identified the obscure hole-in-the-wall pizzeria clear on the other side of Toronto.

Our waiter, Maurizio, then launched into a 10-minute monologue into why Dino’s pizza was just ok, but the restaurant where he worked – Queen Margherita Pizza – got it right. It had to do with the way in which the oven was designed. Dino’s oven was designed for flatbreads and has a higher ceiling – this requires more wood or time to get the heat right. Queen Margherita’s oven has a low ceiling, allowing for better circulation of heat.

Normal people under normal circumstances would be annoyed or bored by Maurizio’s detailed story about how the pizzaiolos at Queen Margherita have been in the business for decades, and how they developed their technique at wood ovens in Naples and brought it to Canada. At the conclusion of our talk, he exclaimed in a thick Neapolitan accent, “this isn’t just food for me. This is my culture.”

There are two places in Toronto that have earned and paid for the “Verace Pizza Napoletana” label. This organization requires the restaurant to use very specific, authentic ingredients – Tipo 00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. Maurizio explained that the cheese was the hardest ingredient to get just right, but Queen Margherita uses fior di latte, which comes from cow milk, as opposed to Bufala Mozzarella.

The two joints in Toronto that have the VPN certification are Queen Margherita on Queen East in Leslieville, and Pizzeria Libretto on Ossington near Dundas.

The great thing about both restaurants is that it’s not an expensive night out. The pizzas are about 12″ across, so you can get a few for sharing, and they’re about $10 – 15 each. There is something so satisfying about a fresh pie right out of an 800-degree oven, especially when it uses top-quality, authentic ingredients. These pizzas aren’t drenched in grease, they deliver awesomeness on a chewy crust.

I haven’t been to Libretto and Margherita in close enough succession to compare the two, but I’ll try to do so.

The other thing I noticed is that poutine is so prevalent now throughout Toronto, even in gourmet form, but it’s completely absent in cold, hockey-crazy Buffalo. This ought be remedied.

Queen Margherita Pizza on Urbanspoon

Pizzeria Libretto on Urbanspoon

Dino's Wood Burning Oven Pizza on Urbanspoon

14 Responses to “The Toronto Pizza Hunt”

  1. BobbyCat September 9, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    One of the perks of being a free lance writer is that you give yourself assignments liek comparing pizza parlors. It’s a tough job but…you know.

    The photos are beautiful, but the pepperoni pizza could use more pepperoni IMHO. BTW, whoever coined the phrase “pepperoni pizza”? Every pizzas must have pepperoni. It’s God’s law. (You can find it in the Bible and the Koran.)

  2. STEEL September 9, 2010 at 9:32 am #

    too much sauce on that last pie. The top one looks a bit burnt, But what I wouldn’t give for any one of them. The Pizza in Chicago is disgusting.

  3. Mike in WNY September 9, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    God needs to be corrected, classic/authentic Pizza Margherita has no pepperoni.  Pepperoni was an afterthought, like Adam’s apple.

  4. lulu September 9, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    I believe Blue Monk will be serving poutine. Also, I just bought some delicious spicy cheese curds on a drive in the country and will attempt homemade Poutine for the first time. It may be the cold weather, but I had to laugh when I saw you mention Poutine as it has been on my mind a lot lately!

  5. STEEL September 9, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    Duffs does a great gravy over fries thing maybe they can throw in some cheese curd if asked

  6. Ethan September 9, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    I sincerely hope Mike and Dino@ Blue Monk get their poutine right: don’t upscale it, it is Queeb comfort food.  I’ve seen the proliferation of poutine restaurants in TO, it’s cool and I like variations on a theme.  But still, myself: I like basic, excellent, inexpensive poutine.  Like my granmere made it.

    As for pizza… I like it best in Italy, then in Brooklyn.  Never Buffalo (too much bread, sauce too sweet, cheeze too greasy) or Chicago, especially: deep dish is disgusting.

  7. Ward September 9, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    “I haven’t been to Libretto and Margherita in close enough succession to compare the two, but I’ll try to do so.”

    Your willingness to go to such lengths for your readership is what sets you apart from the rest. Many thanks.

  8. BobbyCat September 9, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    “As for pizza… I like it best in Italy…” Well, laddy freakin da. No shitski?

    As for sex, I prefer Gezele Bundchen … until she left me for that lousy football player !

  9. Ethan September 9, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    @BobbyCat: that was really a helpful addition to the conversation; thanks!

  10. Jennifer September 9, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    Where did you get your pizza photos from? The second pizza looks so yummy (to me.)

    • Alan Bedenko September 9, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

      @Jennifer: I took them all.

      The top pizza is Dino’s pepperoni.

      The middle pizza is the Romolo from Queen Margherita (prosciutto di cotto, mushrooms, cheese & sauce). Next to it is the dining room/kitchen there.

      At the bottom are Libretto’s oven area and it’s Margherita pizza.

  11. Jennifer September 9, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    Thanks I will definitely be stopping there next time I am up in Toronto.

  12. wright September 21, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    buffalo pizza is gross & all tastes the same. Toronto, no surprise, has such diverse & great pizza places. my fav was one on queen west under/near the funhaus.
    nice article btw

  13. Jered October 31, 2012 at 10:52 pm #


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