If you live in Ontario and are in and around the GTA, it’s been one hell of a past week. Things are feeling bleak and though I thought I had been doing relatively well at handling the highs and lows, I think I hit my tipping point recently. Stacey’s latest post has given me a few things to think about as I try to pivot my thinking to see me through these next couple of months, but I’m not there yet. So as I cling to some of the things that bring me comfort and joy while keeping socially distant, I thought I’d write about one of my favourites: pizza.
I have been drooling over many of my friends’ cooking masterpieces throughout this pandemic. I am proud to have such a talented circle of friends, even if I can’t contribute. I can cook decently for my tastes, but I don’t enjoy cooking. While some people take great pleasure from making meals, I take mine from eating them. Maybe things would be slightly different if I was cooking for more than just me. When you’re cooking for one person, you tend to have to eat the same thing for a week. Or you have to make sure there is enough room in the freezer so you can make a few different meals and freeze them just to give you some options. So most of my cooking generally has to involve recipes that involve prep work that can be done in advance (ie. cutting vegetables), and cooking that can be thrown into a pot (ie. pasta, soups, stews and slow cooker). Bonus points for not needing any heat (ie. greens from a bag with some of my vegetables and own dressing) and little to no dishes (frozen food section of any grocery store). Although I did leave the house to do some take-out orders now and then, I tried to make some of my favourites at home. Pizza topped my list because I could just get the dough from the grocery store and make some sauce and add my own toppings. So while it helped to bridge the gap, in no way did it fully satisfy my cravings for really good pizza.
In the suburbs here normally I stick with Pizza Hut because I like their pan crust. It’s my go-to “make-do” pizza – and bonus points because I can get my parentals to eat a slice. My father, a man with an unsophisticated palate, only eats Pizza Hut pizza if he can help it. I don’t normally put meat on my pizza here, but I make a concession for my father and just pick off what I don’t like. This is truly a throw-back to my childhood years. While La Manna’s helped to curb the craving with their pizza slices and their famous “Big Slice” options, I haven’t been there since the pandemic because there is always a long line outside. So a lot of people obviously feel the same way and if you haven’t had a chance to visit them, you should. But it wasn’t until Mark’s Pizza came along that I felt properly pizza-saved in my area code. Like La Manna’s, they are open for take-out only which makes it easy though I recognize not full-proof if you aren’t able to leave the house. But when you are craving a non-meat, spicy pizza, their Arrabiata Pizza (with thanks to Joe Beddia) is perfection. It’s almost cruel to have to drive it home because the smell in the car with those spicy chillies can make you tear up. I am no stranger to spicy food and normally I would have to layer on some chilli oil to achieve the right amount of heat but not so with this one. I needed some milk after 2 slices and had I not feared the repercussions I would have easily eaten 2 more slices in one sitting. I would also shout-out their pepperoni pizza because they use Ezzo Supreme pepperoni and this is what makes even me, a non-meat lover, crave meat. The menu changes weekly based on what’s fresh, but they keep some classics which are also worth checking out.
If I’m in Toronto, my go-to restaurant for all things Italian is Pizzeria Via Mercanti. While their Augusta location is my favourite for atmosphere, I used to eat at their Elm Street location once a quarter! Their Pizza Scarpariello is divine – Grana Padano, a lot of garlic, hot chilli, some basil and black pepper. While it is spicy and sinus clearing worthy, I also happen to love their chilli oil so just throw caution to the wind and add it on. It’s a delicious party in your mouth and you won’t regret it. As a bonus we don’t deserve, they also make a pasta version of this. And it is at the top of my comfort food list. If you are in one of their delivery areas, you will not go wrong (pick up options also available). The Elm Street location is at the top of my list of “regular life activities” I plan to resume once I am able!
Somewhat cruelly, I had my first Descendant’s pizza just prior to lockdown. I’ve tried a couple of their pies, but the standout for me is the Truff-Ghi pizza. If you enjoy mushrooms and truffles, this is absolutely decadent. They do a Detroit-style pizza, so it’s a proper rectangular shaped crispy and chewy thick pan crust. The cremini mushrooms are slow roasted and you can taste the garlic, there are caramelized onions, cheese and double-smoked bacon to compliment the white truffle cream sauce. A small consists of 4 pieces and though I haven’t yet had the pleasure, I am confident that I could eat at least a small all by myself. (I was sharing with other people and that is really the only reason I couldn’t.) Their pepperoni pizza is also delicious and on my list of recommends. Thankfully, if you’re within their zone they have delivery options and they are open for take-out.
Since I am sticking very close to home and not venturing out for a couple of weeks if I can help it, I have decided to try the General Assembly Pizza subscription. I have had their pizza once before and it was pretty good and now I have the chance to test this frozen subscription option which has been getting some great reviews. The friends I know who have used this service highly recommend it, and as this seems like a major upgrade from the frozen food aisle of the grocery store, I cannot wait. I decided on a mix – they have Vegan options and they also use Ezzo Pepperoni – so I have ordered some options to maybe encourage the parentals to partake. If not, I’ve got enough pizza for many nights and certainly enough nights available in which to eat them. (Note they also have delivery options.)
My aunt always says, “Food is love.” So I’m going to surround myself with it for a little bit to help me through. Brightside – at least it will help keep me motivated to keep up my walking.
I’d like to say I fall into the “sandwich generation” – and while I have no children of my own to care for – I find myself falling somewhere in between caring for my mother and caring for my sanity. When I am not working, I have the honour of helping look after my amazing mother, who has suffered 2 strokes in the past 11 years. Being a caregiver is not for the faint of heart, and if I am being honest, it can be a crappy club to be a member of. I have fallen down more times than I care to count through this journey, but while channeling my incredible stubbornness, strength (both of which I come by honestly,) and several F-words (Faith, Family, Friends and Food), I keep getting back up. IG: @Coolman_Eh