Pizza. Older than dirt. Simple as pie. Tasty as hell. While in the past, the more fastidious you were with your order, the further afield you may have had to roam, Toronto's current pizza landscape has more options than ever.
Give me one with everything!
Which brings us to the topic at hand: the best cheese pies to be had on Roncesvalles. One of the most charming, sundry, and distinctive neighbourhoods in Toronto, Roncesvalles village is becoming even cooler than it already has been. A west end bastion of Polish/Ukrainian lineage, Roncie - in my experience always a stronghold of students, hippies, and families - is quickly hipsterfying, with both the standard, single variant, and young well-tatooed couples, blinding passersby with the glint of sunlight off of their aviators. This west end strip is increasing in all manner of gentrification, as chic restaurants, exceptional caffeine dealers, and craft-beer toting watering holes alike are popping up like lilies in summer. Add to this Roncie's relatively new integrated bicycle lanes, upgraded streetcar tracks, music venues, vintage Revue cinema, and of course its proximity to High Park, and you get a neighbourhood of near unparalleled functionality and coolness. And between all the idiosyncratic meat smoking, Thai, greasy spoon, Polish, and veggie restos, you can get yourself some pretty good pizza.
Lambretta Pizzeria and Wine Bar
Address: 89 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto
Phone: +1 416-551-9925
Inhabiting a phenomenal space that has recently been home to "Hey" restaurant, in addition to a variety of coffee shops and yoga spaces, Lambretta Pizzeria and Wine Bar is beautifully glassed, tiled, and wooded, with a fantastically comfortable bar, boasting a host of phenomenal Ontario craft beer selections and a menu of designer cocktails (including a delicious sounding smokey bourbon Caesar).
A densely packed menu reveals a throng of roma-style thin crust pizza offerings (18 to be precise) ranging in price from $10-18, in addition to appetizers ($7-21), salads ($9-12), fare from the fryer ($8-12), and pastas ($12-18), proffering a menu both adventurous and affordable. Lambretta's urbane yet inviting atmosphere and friendly staff attracts families and singles alike, with welcome room for both large parties and single-pint-sipping patrons. With a vast selection of wine and Ontario craft beer, an innovative cocktail program, a delectable menu, and a stellar western facing street view, Lambretta hits the mark.
Margherita - topped with fresh salad of arugula, cherry tomatoes & prosciutto
Address: 321 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto
Phone: +1 416-534-4414
I loved happening onto Defina's "5$ Craft" beer sandwich board: a place after my own heart. The dimly lit, heavily wood and brick interior glowed with a mix of rustic chic and upscale urban polish. With a copious offering of local craft beer, a variety of standard draft staples, and a wine list longer than the menu, Pizzeria Defina is hitting the ball squarely on the threads.
The Bar at Pizzeria Defina
With an extensive menu offering fifteen meat-based pie offerings and another five of the vegetarian order, Defina's wood fired, hand crafted pizza menu is superlative, including a variety of three dough types, including the rarely-seen-in-pizza-dough-circles Kamut grain. Supplementing this consummate carte du jour is a variety of choices for the non pizza lover by way of starter/small plates ($8-12), salads, including a lovely Kale offering as well as a Grilled Peach variation ($9-14), and three pasta dishes ($15-18). With craft beer tastings, a candle-laden split bar catering to intimate chats over a few drinks, and an upstairs room for private parties and events, Pizzeria Defina has something for everyone. A great place for a date, a family dinner out, or a pint at the bar.
Address: 167 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto
Phone: +1 416-588-4500
From the outside, Pizza Flora gives off more of a shawarma vibe than pizzeria, and the interior tends to back that up. A University style cafeteria layout leads guests to a front display of available slice offerings, where Pizza Flora boasts a variety of gourmet pies offered by-the-slice or for custom order. Flora offers fully twenty-five different pre-made pizza recipes including such innovative varieties as the 'shrimp alfredo', 'chicken parmigiana', and 'clams casino'. All pizzas are offered in 14", 16", and 20" sizes, with prices ranging from an affordable $16-18-20 respectively. Perhaps more impressive than its pizza arsenal is the reach of Flora's menu beyond the pizza realm. With a range of appetizers (6-10$), salads (4-9$), hot subs (6.95-7.50$), grilled panini (6.95), and a host of other offerings from pasta dishes (7-15$), to chicken dinners, specials, and a catering menu for parties and events, Pizza Flora is much more than meets the eye.
There is more to Pizza Flora than meets the eye
Despite some rough and tumble counter service, my ricotta, spinach, tomato, and aioli slice was actually quite impressive. The interior left a bit to be desired however, with a dark and slightly gungy atmosphere not helped by Nicki Minaj hammering away on the restaurant's sound system as I ate. That being said, Pizza Flora seems to be going more for a quick stop, slice-slinging, pizza delivery persona than a fine dining, sit down, table service restaurant. Being the only fast food type pizza place on Roncesvalles other than Pizza Nova, it can afford to fill that niche. While I wouldn't go out of my way to visit Pizza Flora again, it's a relatively cheap quick fixer in a pinch that - if the slices are fresh, or you get a custom pie made to order - actually delivers.
King Slice (honourable mention)
Address: 1598 Bloor St W, Toronto
Phone: +1 416-536-3738
While not technically on Roncesvalles, an honourable pizza mention must go out to the venerable King Slice. Just west of Roncie on Bloor, King Slice is a pizza staple. Its enormous, Jurassic-era slices are gourmet in both their ingredients and their simplicity. A meal in itself, a King Slice slice does you for an evening. And it won't break the bank. You can choose from a range of five different slices (though the Margherita, Arrabiatta, and classic pepperoni are their most standard offerings) for a very affordable 4.80$ each, or get one of eleven pre-made pizzas (such as the 'Napa', 'Sicily', or 'Giardinetto') in sizes ranging from small ($12.25), to medium ($16.25), large ($20.75), extra large ($24.50), all the way up to their 24-slice party size ($30.25).
And if their stellar pizza doesn't tickle your italian fancy, you can browse a formidable gourmet menu including calzones ($10), a gaggle of eleven different pasta dishes, including the racy 'Penne alla Vodka' ($8.50-10.50), plus Pasta Forno plates (a variety of pasta dishes baked in a stone oven), sandwiches and salads ($5.50-6.50), in addition to a variety of dipping sauces and beverages. King Slice is well worth the trek west (or south to their Queen St. location), and being a close walk from Dundas West station, makes for an easy stop after a hang with friends or a night out.