This is what I would imagine a traditional pizza pallor to look like. And at this one, you could certainly see the age in the place, the wear in the wood, and the time in the pictures. And as the location of a birthday lunch, there was no better place to take my guest than the restaurant he has spent so many birthdays past. Given the choice, he has been coming here since he was eight years old. We sat down with him smiling, explaining that this was always the place and his brothers wanted to go to when they grew a year older. I suspect that this place too held the same feeling for others. Opened since 1975, with a sign monumenting their 30 year anniversary in 2005. It was hard to believe that come next year, 2015, it will be ten years since they affixed that sign. And time for another one to commemorate 40 years.
Seating were spacious booths separated by wood barriers, and loose tables by the bar. Surrounding it all were four walls decorated heavily with black framed pictures, faded posters, and black and white photos. Scenes from old Hollywood and monumental sporting events. A poster for “Casablanca” during its original release, a candid shot of Muhammad Ali as he knocked out an opponent, and a signed photo from Michael J. Fox, who apparently likes the location. Definitely lots to keep the head roaming, and even more to keep your eyes busy. It was all easy to see with the well lit tow of low hanging lamps, one per table. A row of alternating colours in yellow and red. The most iconic of decorations was their mascots. Two cartoon men in red, yellow and green. Dressed sharply in shorts, high socks, and pinned stripped vests, and finished gentlemanly with bow ties. They stood proudly stuck to several locations around the parlour, holding a beer in one hand and a pizza pie in the other.
The staff were a friendly bunch. A very young team who spent their time joking around with one another and chatting up guests. This being quite the family orientated place, they knew regulars by first name and caught up as they served. Serving in a spacious room enough with patrons seated far enough that it kept their sounds to a murmur.
We walked in and were given the option to seat where ever we liked. I bee-lined to the booth closest to the room’s firepit, located right in its centre. An impressive sight of imitation stone. Though given the sunny day we were having, the extra heat wasn’t really needed. So instead we moved one booth down, to be now adjacent to the rustic bar on our right. Without high top chairs this was not a bar meant for seating. Instead it offered beers on tap and a windowed look at their bottled soda and juice offerings.
Pizzas are made to order in house. A process visible through the open space and glass windows separating the kitchen from the dining room. The kitchen was built looking clean with tile and stainless steel. For those wanting, you could perch yourself and get a a front row seat of the process. Though the chef in uniform was a little shy today. She was busy rolling dough and saucing up pizza. They also did delivery and the need for fresh pies kept her busy. This was seen by the rotation of bodies dressed in uniform ushering pizza out of restaurant and into their cars.
When dining here you don’t just order the meat lovers or the Hawaiian, you go for their specialty pizzas; that which you can’t get any where else. In order to be able to try the most we ordered 4 mini pizzas to share. If we wanted two flavours on each, with a half half split of ingredients, we had to have gotten a medium or larger size. So after doing the math, to get as many flavours as possible, for as little as needed we opted for the four mini pizzas. Though highly considering also getting the super mini pizza just for show and a size comparison.
The featured pizza was the “Sriracha cowboy”. An East meets west approach on a spicy, sizzling steak pizza. A perfect blend of tender shaved beef, mushrooms, caramelized onions, red peppers and chopped jalapeño on their famous garlic and herbed crust. Then finished with a spicy sriracha-ranch drizzle. This we agreed was the best pizza of the lot. A hearty pie with a good amount of spice. Together with the veggies it tasted like what would make the cut inside of a fajita, especially as the taste of the peppers really shone through. Though things could have used more of the cooling ranch dressing to balance our spicier flavours.
“Smoked Salmon & Roasted Garlic” also known as the “West Coast heaven”. A pizza with sweet roasted garlic, red onions, diced tomatoes, mild goat cheese, capers and smoked salmon layered on a crust with their garlic and herb sauce. The lot is topped with fresh dill and a lemon wedge for zest. A much lighter pizza than the former, it made a great breakfast slice. It was just missing the cream cheese typically familiar with this grouping. Instead there was a strong mild feta-like cheese. An appreciated salt component that was best as crumbs, instead of being left in overwhelming chunks. This ate more like bagel and lox than a fishy pizza.
“Perogy”. Oven-roasted potatoes on their garlic herb sauce base, layered with smoky bacon, onions and bubbling cheddar cheese. Then topped with green onions and a side of sour cream. Always wanting the unique and liking perogies this was a no brainer. But as good as this idea was it didn’t translate that well. The pizza was heavy with all the starch and carbs and dry without any sauce. The sour cream helped, but it was not enough to both moisten the pizza and give it the zip it needed. Things would have popped more with a more generous approach to bacon, instead of the bits used as sprinkles.
The “California” was a pizza with sun-dried tomato sauce, roasted chicken, artichoke hearts, actual sun-dried tomatoes, toasted almonds, fresh basil and parsley. The thought of nuts on a pizza was intriguing, a new one for the both of us, earning it the spot of our second favourite pizza of the day. This was a hardy mouthful. With this many ingredients, came some really good pairings. The artichokes were soft and well cooked. The sun dried tomatoes gave off a smokey flavour, the basil some freshness, and the nuts a textural crunch. I was surprise the strength of the thin crust to be able to carry this load.
The lunch special lasagna was very run of the mill. Though the time it took to prepare it, leads me to believe this was pre-assembled and baked to order. It was nothing special. A little on the dry side, with none of the usual pooling of sauce at the bottom. We appreciated the generous portion of cheese that was baked to a gooey stinginess, but other than that nothing you couldn’t find in a frozen food isle. Though really we shouldn’t be ordering lasagna at a place with “pizza” in its title.
Complimentary lollipops for those who ask. My guest requested for a green for me, and our server was generous to bring back 3 others with it! And left over pizza to go.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
This pizza is not for the everyday, more of a special occasion pizza, the one you call for when you are celebrating. The crust is what stands out, a thin crisp made with a unique blend of herbs that really added to the its taste and aroma. With a selection of toppings found no where else they have a winning combination. Dine in or eat out, both options include good food and a welcoming setting. Going to deem this one my favourite speciality pizza joint. Don’t deny your cravings.