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PIZZERIA LIBRETTO (550 Danforth, at Carlaw, 416-466-0400, pizzerialibretto.com) Complete dinners for $40 per person (lunches $30), including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $15. Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 am to midnight, Sunday 4 pm to midnight. Licensed. Access: two step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN
Mr. Greek must be quaking in his espadrilles.
Why, here it is just Thursday noon and the new 150-seat Pizzeria Libretto on the Danforth is seriously slammed. Since we'd anticipated the crowd, we're lucky enough to have reservations and are soon seated at a six-top with a front-row view of the open kitchen's duelling wood-burning ovens. So much for soft openings.
There must be as many clad-in-black servers and kitchen staff as customers. Would the table like to start with the $44 antipasto platter? We'd prefer the spicy meatballs offered at the original location on Oz but settle for bread and water instead, an ever-replenished complimentary basket of Thuet baguette sided with chili oil and unlimited bottles of house-carbonated eau du Lac Ontario ($3).
Soon, we're laying waste to an artful tangle of organic greens in white balsamic vinaigrette tossed with halved fresh figs, slivers of Bosc pear and raw blue cheese from a cow named Elizabeth in Quebec ($10). Another salad of bitter endive, heirloom beets, grapefruit wedges and candied walnuts in citrusy dressing ($11) disappears as quickly.
What part of this culinary equation doesn't compute? Two house-made ravioli stuffed with sweet Dungeness crab ($12) and six people. Good thing there's all that absorbent bread to get every last gorgeous drop of sea urchin cream. A single Cumbrae beef short rib, a roasted potato (one), glazed carrots and abalone oyster mushrooms ($16) does not a shareable starter make. Fatty, too, and not the good kind.
But, like everyone else, we're here for the pizza, and it doesn't disappoint. Seven are holdovers from the first Libretto, knockouts like the VPN-certified Margherita ($13) and co-owner/chef Rocco Agostino's superb duck confit drizzled with honey ($17). New pies include the Papa Luigi ($16), that same remarkably chewy cracker-thin crust brushed with family-recipe San Marzano tomato sauce and strewn with crumbled Gorgonzola, strips of roasted red pepper and see-through ribbons of Tyrolean speck.
The Quattro Formaggi comes topped with a mudslide of truffled sauce and the four titular cheeses - bufala mozzarella, Montasio, Moliterno and parmigiano Reggiano - while the Funghi (both $18) arrives heaped with a veritable forest of 'shrooms, among them meaty abalone oysters and Hen of the Woods. And why not throw some smoky rashers of pork belly alongside sauce, bomba chili peppers and mozzarell' on a pie ($15), since everyone else has gone hog wild?
Desserts go for comfort, not flash, particularly the goat cheese panna cotta with blood orange syrup and frozen grapes and the chocolate pudding-like budino (both $7), no surprise to those familiar with Agostino's work at Ferro, Silver Spoon and Enoteca Sociale.
Best pizza in town? No question. The new Libretto's not only bigger, but the food's better than ever, and they take reservations, something they never did before.
You'll need 'em.