Toronto’s top 5 pizza places
Conor Joerin already had a successful restaurant on his hands before opening his newest eatery earlier this month. He is co-owner of Sugo, the hugely popular Italian eatery in the Bloordale neighborhood known for its many plates of hearty pasta. But a visit to the Big Apple got him dreaming of dough. “As I was sitting in a Brooklyn pizza place, I was watching the fire in a brick oven,” he says. He had two thoughts: why was it so good? And could he achieve the same results in Toronto?
Joerin wanted to find out, and he didn’t have to travel far to find the perfect spot. He has co-owned the restaurants that inhabited the space next to Sugo, such as The Emerson, for more than a decade. “This is the neighborhood we grew up in,” he says. “So that seemed like the natural direction.”
Joerin, along with co-owners Alexander Wallen and Michelle Pennock, opened Bar Sugo right next door to Sugo to try and create the perfect cake, following in the footsteps of old-school, downright no-frills Toronto pizza makers like Fresca and Bitondo. The secret behind Bar Sugo’s delicious options? According to Joerin, it’s organic flour, local buffalo mozzarella, and a wood-fired oven. Joerin also honors tradition with a pizza oven built with bricks from Joerin’s old high school; Framed pages from old box magazines serve as decoration. They also favor using GTA-made ingredients and sourcing locally-sourced cheese, wine, pasta, and flour. “It’s important to us to use quality ingredients,” he says, “and the local market offers all of that.”
For Joerin, one of the best parts about opening a pizza place is what pizza represents. “Pizza is a good time,” he says, “and I like having a good time.” The understated ease that Sugo is so popular for is also found at Bar Sugo, with a curated selection of cakes. Standouts include the Little Manila with pineapple, jalepeno and basil and the Bitondo, a meatloaf with pepperoni, bacon, crumbled meatballs and smoked mozzarella.
The sauce in particular is sacred. They offer traditional red sauce along with white sauce and pink sauce. Craving something besides your piece ‘za? They also serve Italian comfort classics such as pasta, various types of Parmesan and homemade tiramisu.
Now, Bar Sugo hopes to join Toronto’s packed roster of world-class pizza places and help families create some memories of their own. “It’s fun to get together with friends and family and enjoy all the great pizzerias together,” says Joerin. “Everyone has a favorite pizza!”
Here, the pizza owner shares their own favorite pizza tour when they fancy a slice.
Fresca Pizza & Pasta, 302 Hochschulstr.
“As a child I attended Lord Lansdowne Junior Public School, just up the road from Vinny Massimo Pizza and Pasta, now Fresca Pizza & Pasta. It was my lunch option. One of my first dining memories was buying a slice of pepperoni pizza from them and slathering their signature basil and garlic oil on top.”
bitondo pizzeria, 11 Clintonstr.
“Another neighborhood institution. I always grab a slice of pepperoni and a cheese panzo, and eating out is a must. I love sitting inside and watching them make cakes while I eat. It hasn’t changed since I was a kid, what I love. I recommend keeping some sauce on the side to put under the panzo and I love the meatballs. It definitely inspired what we do at Sugo.”
Pizzeria Badiali, 181 Dovercourt Rd.
“Probably the best bit in town at the moment. The rosé slice is my favorite and the weekly specials are always very creative and a nice variety of toppings. Co-owner Ryan Baddeley and his team single-handedly brought the Slice shop back to the hood!”
Coming Detroit style pizza, 1168 Queen St.E.
“Detroit style pizza at its best without climbing the 401. They pay close attention to the balance of ingredients, dough, toppings and texture. It’s sold out for a reason. Always happy to drive around town and enjoy such good pizza in Toronto.”
The Sovereign Cafe, 1359 Davenport Rd.
“A really solid Roman piece. The owner is a perfectionist and he has been developing the pizza for quite some time. I really enjoyed the mushroom piece the last time I ate there. Displayed alongside the best scones in town, it’s perfect for a quick lunch or snack. Don’t miss the coffee here: it’s the best cappuccino in town.”
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