221 Ossington, Toronto, Ontario (map); 416-532-8000; pizzerialibretto.com
Pizza style: Neapolitan
The skinny: Naples-style authenticity in Toronto
Price: Prix Fixe lunch, $15, add anchovies, $2, Anchovy Pie a la carte $17
On a recent 12-hour layover in Toronto, I felt like my tastebuds somehow ended up in Naples. Pizzeria Libretto, located in Little Portugal, makes one of the best pizzas I've had in Canada. It's also the only place in Toronto that's certified as a producer of Vera Pizza Napoletana.
Alongside importing San Marzano tomatoes from Italy and using Ontario-made Fiore de Latte mozzarella, their dedication to Naples-style methodology entails baking pies for less than 90 seconds in a 900 degree wood-burning oven (hand-built by a 3rd generation pizza oven maker in Naples, then delivered to Ontario). They're so fastidious about adhering to tradition that their website even lifts a wonderfully precise definition from the E.U.-accredited association's strict "Disciplinare" manual:
Description of the product: Pizza Napoletana is an oven made circularly shaped culinary product, of a variable diameter which should not exceed 35 cm, with a elevated border (crust) and with the central part covered with toppings. The central part should be 0.3 cm thick, and the crust 1-2 cm thick. The pizza as a whole should be soft, elastic, easily folded as would be a pamphlet.
Pizzeria Libretto offers a killer three-course Prix Fixe lunch ($15). I had a choice of primi (arugula salad, caprese salad, or bruschetta), pizza (Margherita D.O.P., Marinara D.O.P., or the Piadina of the Day, which is like an Italian flatbread sandwich), and dolci (biscotti or gelato).
Intrigued by the pizza special of the day—a simple anchovy pie—I bypassed the prix fixe offerings and paid a few extra dollars to have the briny, meaty specimens added to my lunch. The pizza had all the hallmarks of a proper Neapolitan pie: a blistered, slightly speckled crust made with naturally leavened Italian Caputo dopio zero flour, topped with a translucent, vermillion layer of San Marzano tomato sauce. The milky, pinkish pool that gathered in the center of the pie required a knife and fork, while the crusts were substantial, nicely salted, and full of character. Petite polka dots of mozzarella were creamy and faintly sweet, and the scattering of anchovy fillets anchored the pie with its oceanic heft.
My brief Ontario adventure came full-circle when I ended the day at the Prince Edward County winery Norman Hardie. Upon entering the kitchen, I noticed an attractive wood-fired pizza in the center of a small courtyard, where they make fresh pizzas during the weekend. I soon discovered that it was none other than the Pizzeria Libretto (alongside fellow Toronto restaurants Terroni and Ortolan) that trained Hardie's staff in the art of pizza-baking, and helped develop their dough recipes. What a pleasant surprise to find wines of Burgundian excellence alongside pies up to Naples-level standards in Ontario. It was also inspiring to see the province's top spots working together.
My twelve hours in Ontario were unforgettable. You can't help respect the attention to detail at Pizzeria Libretto, where they dish up a pie full of integrity, balance, and flavor.
About the Author: Natasha Pickowicz is a San Diego-born music and food writer, and a recent Montreal transplant. In addition to updating her food blog Popcorn Plays, she contributes to the Montreal Gazette, the Montreal Mirror, and enRoute.