New York, Chicago, and Detroit are all one with the Pizza Gods, but when it comes to a community’s love for cheese, bread, and sauce, maybe Toronto deserves that fourth spot (sorry, St. Louis, that "cheese" you call Provel is gross). We're smitten with tomato pies and have been since the golden days of Frank Vetere’s Pizzeria and Mother’s Pizza. To illustrate our love, we've crafted a definitive list of the GTA’s top parlors that will fill you up with a neighborly dose of red sauce and mozzarella.
The folks behind Hub Coffee House have transformed the old Churrasqueira Nova Lisboa space (RIP) into a full-fledged pizza joint that bakes nonna-approved thin-crust varieties. Specialities include the classic pepperoni and mushroom trio (porcini, shimeji, and button); on the weekends, it’s the perfect spot to grab a slice and a shot of Wild Turkey.
Located in the heart of Leslieville, Descendant caters to a specific kind of pizza enthusiast. In this case, it's those that live for a little Detroit-style lovin'. Christopher Getchell's pies are thick and doughy, but his cheese-to-red-sauce ratio is a divine example of mathematics that makes sharing a Double Pep fairly easy. If you're looking for something new, try the Soppressata Marmalade laced with salami, Calabrian chiles, and smoked caciocavallo cheese.
If you’re looking for a classic, absolutely no-frills slice of pizza, it’s hard to top Bitondo’s. The Little Italy spot is still tucked away on Clinton St next to San Francesco Foods and has been serving up double-wide, greasy, thin-crust slices for more than 50 years. The sauce is a little on the sweet side, but it’s still a delicious, filling slice.
Danforth Pizza is another old-school joint that's been serving up pies for more than 50 years. While it has catered to an infinite amount of orders, Elizabeth Manikas and her sons still value tradition. The whole pizzas are puffier than they are crispy, and the cheeses are an in-house secret blend covering all the other toppings you order on your pie. Tip: order a 14in and top it with hot soppressata and pineapple.
Jennifer Bundock’s vegan bakery has become a retreat for Nanaimo brownies ($4.85) and pink Simpson’s Donuts ($2.85), but Apiecalypse Now!'s (yes, vegan) pizzas are still the showstopper. Using organic ingredients, fresh dough, and sauce that’s made from scratch daily, the store's offerings include creations such as the Mac & Charlie, made with mac & cheese, buffalo not-chicken, and jalapeño and mozzerella "cheeses," and The Pig Destroyer Destroyer, with a whopping two types of cheese, garlic sauce, hot sauce, hickory BBQ soy curls, Seitanrizo crumbles, not-chicken, bacon bits, pepperoni slices, and garlic artichokes (phew). If you prefer to keep it simple, opt for the margherita-styled SLAYER!!!11!!11!1!!1, which is appropriately branded with a hot sauce pentagram.
Matty Matheson and company’s Chinatown shop is already making its mark on Toronto’s pizza scene. Maker’s menu is stocked with wings, beet salads, and $10 bodega sandwiches, but how can you ignore the 13 signature red & white pies? Sasquash rolls with roasted squash, blue cheese, pumpkin seeds, and lemon chili-dressed radicchio, while Apocalypse Cow (sorry pun haters, #dealwithit) tosses together mini meatballs, pepperoncini, and Parmesan.
West Queen West
Josh Spatz, Alex Potter, and Frank Pinello have made Queen West Neapolitan-style pizza a thing, and have done so by slinging pared-down yet sophisticated creations, like a white pizza with garlic ricotta, mozzarella, and arugula, or Killer Bee, drizzled in honey and sprinkled with mozzarella, Calabrese sausage, serrano peppers, and pickled red onions on top of red sauce, by the slice. Can’t do delivery? Grab a bite at one of the counters at Get Well on Dundas or at Greater Good Bar at 229 Geary Ave.
Leslieville & Queen West
It's true: Amylee Silva and Michael Kolkas' redesigned pizza parlour lays it on thick. The Queen East spot has always been a landmark for classic ice cream cones, but the duo have introduced Leslieville (and now Queen West) to Regina-style pies which are a dense, toppings-heavy hybrid of Chicago deep dish. If you don't believe us, then try diving into a 15in double pepperoni & mushroom layered with more than 60 (!) slices of pepperoni, because there's no such thing as too much pep.
Greektown & other locations
The Neapolitan pizzeria now has four outposts in Toronto (Ossington, Danforth, University, and King West), and each specializes in wood-oven pies that emphasize flavor. The menu is chock-full of classic Neapolitan staples such as the Libretto Margherita (upgraded with buffalo mozz and Grana Padano) and Napoletana. Then there are the envelope pushers: duck confit with bosc pear and mozzarella, cacciatore salami, cremini mushroom, and the Ontario prosciutto and arugula pizzas.
Terroni’s Italian bakery is a hidden gem that specializes in fresh bread, prosciutto sandwiches, and afternoon delights like bombolones, but the ultimate takeaway is its slices. Sud Forno’s pizza al taglio are cut into Roman-style pieces that come in red or white, and are typically adorned with fresh mozzarella, sausage, squash, artichokes, and/or cherry tomatoes.
As a new(ish) addition to Corktown, TrueTrue absolutely nails its take on DIY artisanal pizza. The pies are a personal-sized, thin-crust variation of pissaladière, and the customization is on a different tier -- there's a total of 27 protein and vegetable toppings to be had, including fennel sausage, Napoli salami, falafel, kale, rapini, and pineapple salsa. That being said, its salad game is on-point, each packed with tons of fruits, veggies, legumes, and nuts, and with wine and craft beer on tap, it's bound to become a health-smart favorite.
Keeping up with The Annex’s traditions, ZA Pizzeria eats, sleeps, and lives by a whole new type of pie: BBQ pizza. But this isn't the only pizza Jason and Lisa Costantini are cooking up -- their shop uses a traditional gas grill/oven contraption that adds a distinct smokiness to the everyday selects, such as the margherita, eggplant Parmesan, and sausage & peppers. The best part is the dips cost only $1 (go for the smoked tomato aioli), and delivery runs until 12am on Fridays.
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1. Dovercourt Village Pizza759 Dovercourt Road, Toronto
2. Descendant Pizza1168 Queen St E, Toronto
3. Bitondo's Pizzeria11 Clinton St, Toronto
4. Danforth Pizza House920 Danforth Ave, Toronto
5. Apiecalypse Now!735 Bloor St West, Toronto
6. Maker Pizza59 Cameron St, Toronto
7. North of Brooklyn Pizzeria650 Queen St. W, Toronto
8. Pizza Thick & The Ice Cream Bake Shop1026 Queen St E, Toronto
9. Pizzeria Libretto221 Ossington Ave, Toronto
10. Sud Forno716 Queen Street West, Toronto
11. True True Pizza169 King St E, Toronto
12. Za Pizzeria402 Bloor St, Toronto
Fed up with hunting for the perfect slice, co-owners Jake and Asher decided to fill the gap in the market with their own pizzeria, and for that we thank them. Village Pizza knows that the building blocks are what makes a pizza superior, so they have honed their crust density, thickness, and taste so that their Neapolitan-style pizzas aren’t too dough-y and aren’t too floppy … they’re just right. Choose from a variety of classic and artisan flavors like the chef-favorite Mushroom Trio, made with four types of cheese, three types of mushrooms, and porcini, or the adventurous Thanks, Obama!, topped with BBQ marinated Spam and pineapple.
Descendant is known for its take on Detroit-style pizza, which is recognizable by its square shape, thick Sicilian crust, and red top that comes from the sauce being put on after the cheese layer. Descendant plays up regular topping combinations with options like the spicy chorizo and corn La Cornita, and the indulgent Truff-ghi (mushrooms, bacon, caramelized onions, and white truffle sauce). Make sure you get a corner slice: since the pie is baked in deep pan, the corner slices have the crispiest (and cheesiest) edges.
Bitondo’s is the type of unapologetic place that has tile floors, plastic chairs, and a backlit menu on a big sign above the counter simply because the food speaks for itself. They offer generous slices and whole pies of deliciously greasy, cheesy pizza with a pleasantly fluffy (but not too thick) crust. Add traditional toppings like pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, and anchovies, or go for something totally different like an Italian chicken cutlet sandwich or a hefty helping of pasta.
This stylish, industrial pizzeria has been a staple of Toronto’s thriving food scene for over 50 years when founder Angelo emigrated from Italy. Still family owned and operated, the pizza house only makes and sells pizzas—they stick to what they know, and they know exactly how to make an exceptional pie. With their secret sauce and sweet, fluffy dough made fresh in-house everyday, Danforth is a neighborhood and city-wide favorite. Make your own pizza from an extensive list of toppings or chose from one of their menu options like a classic Margherita or their house special (pepperoni, bacon, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions).
Serving up delicious, fresh, organic, and totally vegan pizzas, baked goods (like doughnuts and brownies), and other snacks, Apiecalypse Now! is a little shop that has made a big name for itself among vegans and meat-eaters alike. They started off selling their treats at various Toronto farmer’s markets, and now have won many mentions and awards like the Best Bakery award in Toronto (2014). Going vegan for them is not about a trend, but instead about a mission: they are partnered with multiple animal rescues and protection leagues and regularly donate money to the cause. You know what they say … save a chicken, eat a slice of Mac & Charlie pizza, made with buffalo “not-chicken,” and vegan cheeses.
A quirky pizza shop by Canadian restauranteur and um, Vice host, Matty Matheson, Maker Pizza's thin crust pies are the talk of Toronto. These playfully named creations ("Cool Hand Zucch," "Napoli Dynamite," "Apocalyspe Cow") are an inventive departure from your typical, basic 'za-- toppings include confit fingerling potatoes, Thai chili, pork shoulder sugo, and pumpkin seeds, among others.
Yet another illustration of Brooklyn’s growing international appeal, this pizza joint has Torontonians drooling for NYC-borough-inspired pies (not so much how the city makes them, but how New Yorkers are outta-town OBSESSED with the cheese discs). The crusts are thin, Neapolitan-style, and the pizzas hit both expected (white: mozzarella, garlic ricotta, arugula) and unexpected notes (killer bee: sauce, mozzarella, calabrese sausage, serrano peppers, pickled red onion, honey). They mince no words on the menu: toppings are either basic (basil, mushrooms, extra cheese, etc.) or fancy (double-smoked bacon, Nduja sausage, kale, ricotta). The hook is this this 12-seat spot, all bare lightbulbs and checker-plate metal, offers quality by-the-slice in an area you’d previously have to either opt for a slice of gutter pizza or a whole, expensive artisanal pie. BK all the way.
There’s no mistaking that Pizza Thick’s pies are Chicago-inspired, the deep-dish edibles have inches of girth on their New York or Italian cousins (none of that frilly, froufrou Neapolitan stuff here). We’re talking thick crusts, biscuit-like dough and chunky toppings (McQueens Bacon Double Cheeseburger: ground beef, dry spices, onion, bacon, cheddar, mozzarella with sides of lettuce, tomatoes and ‘awesomesauce’), which may or may not have something to do with the industrial steel chairs for seating. Chicken wings are coated in a popular house-made hot sauce, which you can buy and take home if you're feeling spicy. Also on-site in the casual, eat-in space, decorated with picture frames and sporting a few small round tables, is an ice-cream counter, because some cold dairy just seems right after some hot dairy.
Libretto is all about traditions: traditional Neapolitan pizza flavors, traditional ingredients, traditional wood-fired oven. Take a seat in this cozy, authentic Italian restaurant and start with the beef carpaccio or a caprese salad and then pick from a variety of gourmet pizzas like the Libretto Margherita (made with buffalo mozzarella) or the Ontario Prosciutto and Arugula. If you have meat on the brain, sink your teeth into the Nduja pizza, made with nduja sausage and stracciatella cheese. Any way you spin it, you get the satisfaction of the crisp, sweet taste of wood-fired crust with gooey cheese and fresh sauce. Before you waddle home, get the tiramisu … word on the street is it’s pretty darn good.
Sud Forno has an outside-of-the-box approach to pizza, or outside-of-the-triangle rather, with thin rectangles sold by the meter (or half-meter for those not running a calorie marathon). A sister establishment to Italian restaurant Terroni down the street, this pizzeria doubles as a bakery and aperitif bar (Campari, anyone?), and they provide quaint quarters for eating either fare in a space with a counter along large windows, bar stools, stained wood and mini-white tile floors. Pizzas of varying length (farcito classico: white stuffed with prosciutto di parma, mozzarella, tomato, arugula), salads and sandwiches (salami, artichoke spread, truffled Pecorino, arugula) are countered by dizzying Italian breads and sweets (custard-filled bomboloni, pistachio-crusted cannoli). The place's Italian roots are bolstered by their purveyors: grain and flour used in their doughs and breads comes from a third-generation family-owned mill in Marche.
True True gets personal with custom, personal-sized pizzas created in front of you (think: Subway sandwich, but much cuter). Check out the doughs (traditional, whole wheat, gluten-free) and toppings on display and go hog wild, selecting veggies, proteins (chorizo, eggs, fennel sausage, Napoli salami), sauces (Béchamel, pesto, BBQ), cheeses (vegan, blue, goat) and finishes (pitted dates, pineapple salsa). Opt for one of the combos if you’re not feeling inspired to go rogue (Into the Wild: mozzarella, blue cheese, mushroom, Parmesan, truffle oil). The oblong pizzas don’t take long, just a few minutes, and you can sip wine or draft beer while you wait in the clean, mod, fast-casual space with pale pink and baby blue accents.
Za’s most popular item isn’t even of the menu, the “half with garlic roll.” It sounds innocuous enough but it’s a small piece of genius; instead of discarding the leftover dough from half-orders, husband-and-wife owners douse it in garlic-butter, sprinkle it with cheese and roll it up into an aromatic appendage to your pizza (it’s looks like a pizza shaped like the letter ‘D’). A menu of standards and a vegan pie is brought to life by creative signatures (Oh Canada: maple syrup, mozzarella, bacon, potato chips) and monthly specials (like Pumpkin & Speck: pumpkin puree, bufala, Grana Padano, speck, arugula, maple mascarpone, roasted pumpkin seeds) that fly out of hickory-smoke-breathing ovens at this fast-casual favorite. Come on the right day, and there may even be a dessert pie on offer (strawberries & cream: mascarpone, strawberries, maple, mint).