Ottawa’s Best Pizza

Pizza in the oven

Pizza (literary gastronomic food-crush sigh). Not introduced to Canada until the 1950s, pizza is as much a part of Canada’s Baby Boomer narrative as rock and roll, Pierre Trudeau liberalism, narcissism and cynicism.

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There is a scene in Eat, Pray, Love where Julia Roberts is having a relationship with a Margherita pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples. Been there. Done that. Fell in love – long before Julia.

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A real Neapolitan Margherita Pizza is a work of art. It is created with San Marzano tomatoes grown on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius; creamy soft Mozzarella di Buffala Campania, made with the milk of semi-wild water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio; basil so fresh you can smell it a block away; extra virgin olive oil; and sometimes a sprinkle of fresh-grated parmesan cheese. The dough contains only 0-00 wheat flour, Neapolitan/brewers yeast, salt and water, and must be hand crafted and no more than 3mm thick. The pizza is baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485°C (905°F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire. Basta (that’s it that’s all). Any more is gilding the lily.

Naples sits at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, and is the epicentre of pizza deliciousness

In Italy, Verace Pizza Napoletana is serious business. For those who want to try the real thing, The Serious Eats Guide To Pizza In Naples presents a great review of Naples’ crown epicurean jewel. The Serious Eats team claim that the authentic product needs to have a spotted bottom, a soupy center, and sparse toppings. Boomer Traveller agrees.

Neapolitan Golden Standard

Time in oven: 60-90 seconds
Spotted bottom: Charred spots with soft, mild, pale dough in between
Soupy centre: A soft, tender, nearly soupy centre
Sparse toppings: there should be patches of sauce only between the puddles of cheese
Foldability: Almost floppy enough to roll
Taste: Each ingredient stands out

Good pizza with sparse fresh ingredients
The best pizza in Ottawa – sparse ingredients, soupy centre, thin foldable crust, spotted bottom – read to the the end to see who makes this wonder!

Unfortunately, Naples is a long way to go for a pizza on a Friday night… even for Boomertraveller.com. So we spent the last few months trying to find the most authentic and Yum Neapolitan style Margherita pizza in Ottawa.

On our gastronomic quest we sampled eight brick-and-mortar pizzerias and two food trucks that have wood burning stoves and serve Margherita Pizzas. We found them to be highly variable in quality.  None quite stacked up to Michele’s in Naples; all were cooked too long and the cheese and sauce were not comparable to the  quality that we experienced in Naples… but there were nevertheless a few very fine pizzas worthy of the caloric indulgence.

We eliminated the two food truck candidates Pizza All’Antica and What the Truck? Pizza & Panini from consideration because:

  • The smell of petrol associated with both the trucks and the street overpowered the delicate Margherita pizza aroma which made comparison with brick and mortar pizzerias unbalanced. This is clearly not the fault of the vendors but of the venues themselves.
  • The mobile locations and Ottawa winters make al fresco foodie adventures rare events. Particularly when the north wind blows.
  • Finally, Canadian Baby Boomers prefer to dine-in rather than take out (the Gen Z preference) or delivery (the Millennial preference).

That being said, high-quality wood burning pizza food trucks are a great addition to Ottawa’s foodie collective and these two are a must-try for Ottawa pizzaholics, or anyone who spots one of these trucks while feeling peckish.

Less Than Fabulous…

Fiazza Fresh Fired
$7.95 Fiazza Red Sauce, Fiore Di Latte Mozzarella, Fresh Basil, EVOO, Sea Salt
Time in oven: 275 seconds (although they advertise 180)
Spotted bottom: Odd brown spot with overcooked, pale brown dough in between
Soupy center: No – firmly cooked all over
Sparse topping: Yes
Foldability: So hard it was crisp and crunchy like a cracker
Taste: Heavy herbed and spice sauce drowned out other flavors
Comment: Thin crust, frozen pizza quality. Would be a great addition to a shopping mall food court. While it is advertised as “fired” and on-line reviews say it has a wood burning stove, it is a gas-fired oven.

Fiazza's pizza crust is thin, but cooked too long at too low a temperature. It is like a cracker, and gives Fiazza the bottom rating in our survey.
Fiazza’s pizza crust is thin, but cooked too long at too low a temperature. It is like a cracker, and gives Fiazza the bottom rating in our survey.

La Favorita
$11 Tomato Sauce, Basil, Shredded Mozzarella, Fiore di Latte
Time in oven: 154 seconds
Spotted bottom: Brown spots with overcooked, pale brown dough in between
Soupy center: No
Sparse topping: Yes
Foldability: Moderate – some cracking at the edges
Taste: Not very flavourful – individual ingredients were not easily distinguishable.
Comment: The crust was hand-formed and appropriately thin. However, the oven was clearly not hot enough. While the pizza was cooking, the chef added a sheet of corrugated cardboard to boost the flame. Overall, not an exceptional production and not worth the calories. Only go here if you live next door.

Johnny Farina Restaurant
$13.25 (lunch) $14.25 (dinner) Tomato sauce, Mozzarella, Basil, EVOO
Time in oven: 228 seconds
Spotted bottom: Dark brown spots with overcooked, grey dough in between
Soupy center: No
Sparse topping: No – way too much sauce and cheese
Foldability: Moderate – so much sauce and cheese that a knife and fork were the better way to go.
Taste: Heavy herbed sauce and an overabundance of cheese (shredded hard mozzarella, not the soft ball type) drowned out other flavours
Comment: Not worth getting pizza here unless meeting friends for beer and to watch a game.

Johnny Farina's pizza is made with too much shredded block (Kraft-style) mozzarella. Swimming in cheap melted cheese, you need a knife and fork to eat it. With not enough basil and too much spice in the sauce, it is very much Canadian pizza for accompanying beer, not a Neapolitan pizza.
Johnny Farina’s pizza is made with too much shredded block mozzarella. Swimming in cheap melted cheese, you need a knife and fork to eat it. With not enough basil and too much spice in the sauce, it is very much Canadian pizza for accompanying beer, not a Neapolitan pizza.

The Grand Pizzeria & Bar
$16.99 Buffala Mozzarella, Fresh Basil
Time in oven: 235 seconds
Spotted bottom: Brown spots with overcooked, pale brown dough in between
Soupy centre: Yes… but only because there was too much cheese
Sparse topping: No
Foldability: Medium
Taste: Individual ingredients did not stand out.
Comment: The crust was hand-formed and appropriately thin; however, it was far overcooked and too salty.

Tennessy Willems
$14 Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce, Fiore Di Latte, Parnassian, Fresh Basil
Time in oven: 246 seconds
Spotted bottom: Charred spots with pale dough in between, covered with a thin coat of flour.
Soupy center: No
Sparse topping: Too sparse. There was a 1.5 inch margin between the edge and the toppings.
Foldability: Moderate
Taste: While nicely flavoured the oven roasted sauce drowned out the delicacy of the cheese.
Comment: The crust was hand-formed and appropriately thin. The pizza was seriously overcooked and dry.

A wide margin between the overcooked crust and the overcooked topping at Tennessy Willems. At least the basil is fresh.
A wide margin between the overcooked crust and the overcooked topping at Tennessy Willems. At least the basil is fresh.

Honorable Mention

Anthonys
$14 Fiore Di Latte, Fresh Basil, Olive Oil, Parmesan
Time in oven: 103 seconds
Spotted bottom: Charred spots with soft, mild, pale dough in between
Soupy center: No
Sparse topping: Yes
Foldability: Medium
Taste: Nicely flavoured, each ingredient stood out
Comment: While the crust was hand-formed it was too thick particularly at the edges.

Runner Up

Vittoria Trattoria
$15 Tomato sauce, mozzarella, bocconcini cheese and fresh basil
Time in oven: 127 seconds
Spotted bottom: Charred spots with soft, mild, pale dough in between
Soupy centre: Very little
Sparse topping: Yes
Foldability: Good
Taste: Nicely flavoured, each ingredient stood out
Comment: The crust was hand-formed. Overall a very good pizza – it could have been cooked just a bit less. The chef made it special for us in the most Neapolitan style he could muster – and came very close. We suspect the usual here is a little less authentic, but still excellent.

Chef Jordan at Anthony's makes a very credible pizza, tossing the dough and firing it in their stone oven.
Chef Jordan at Anthony’s makes a very credible pizza, tossing the dough and firing it in their stone oven.

Ottawa’s #1 Pizza

Roberto’s Pizzeria

Roberto's oven produces Ottawa's best pizza.
Roberto’s oven produces Ottawa’s best pizza.

$12.75 Tomato sauce, Mozzarella, Basil
Time in oven: 146 seconds
Spotted bottom: Charred spots with soft, mild, pale dough in between
Soupy centre: A little
Sparse topping: Yes
Foldability: Good
Taste: Nicely flavoured, each ingredient stood out
Comment: The crust was hand-formed. Overall a very good pizza – it could have been cooked just a bit less, but it reminded us of Naples.

Roberto has the best spotted bottom - pizza perfection!
Roberto has the best spotted bottom – pizza perfection!

Roberto’s is the best Neapolitan pizza in Ottawa.

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