MAGIC OVEN (6 Wellesley West, at Yonge, 416-929-7888) Other locations: 360 Queen East, at Parliament, 416-703-3555; 270 Dupont, at Spadina, 416-928-1555; 798 Danforth, at Woodycrest, 416-462-0333; 788 Broadview, at Danforth, 416-466-0111; 127 Jefferson, at King West, 416-539-0555). Complete dinners for $40 per person (lunches/brunches $25), including all taxes, tip and a glass of organic Ontario plonk. Average main $16/$10. Open Monday to Saturday 11 am to 11 pm, Sunday 11 am to 10 pm (other hours: magicoven.com). Licensed. Delivery. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
Everyone’s got an opinion about its pizza. A well-travelled villain on U.S. TV soap opera As The World Turns says, “If you’re going to Toronto, don’t miss the pizza at Magic Oven. It’s the best this side of Italy.”
But a mention of the local five-?outlet (six, now that another opened last Thursday on Queen just east of Parliament) pizza chain to a couple of pals garners this: “The last pizza we ordered from them was horrible.”
“I hate their crust,” snipes her partner. Me? I’m somewhere in between.
Magic Oven has come a long way since it debuted 11 years ago at Broadview and Danforth around the corner from the old NOW offices.
For starters, it did pizza a little differently. Since Oven owner Tony Sabherwal had been involved with Bar Be Que Hut in Gerrard East’s Little India, going from tandoor to pizza oven wasn’t that much of a stretch for him. Thus was born the tandoori chicken pizza.
Expansion followed, and Magic Oven is now unquestionably one of the most popular pizza parlours in town. So much so that the take-?away/delivery spot now operates several dine-in locations, including a branch at Yonge and Wellesley. It’s easily the best resto on the Pride parade route.
If last Sunday’s brunch is any indication, the downtown Magic Oven is still largely undiscovered. In the spot that used to house Mammina’s, the small??ish room looks almost exactly the same as it did in the 70s. Call the decor Chrysler Cordoba meets Krystle Carrington.
But service is friendly and relatively quick, and the grub much more interesting than we remember. First up, a Tuscan Sunrise breakfast pizza ($11) finds a crisp 9-?inch cracker crust spread with sweet tomato sauce and lightly dressed with scrambled egg, Asiago cheese, crumbled chorizo and Beretta’s naturally raised ham and bacon. Fabu-lish!
The Rise And Shine whole wheat panini ($10) sandwich gets generously stuffed with more scrambled egg and sausage as well as nicely charred red pepper, an equally munificent pile of salad greens and obligatory cantaloupe garnish on the side. Expect leftovers.
We pair it with tomatoes with sea salt ($4) – quartered raw tomato splashed with balsamic instead of the grilled ones you’d expect at brunch – and really quite good deep-?fried potato wedges tossed with fresh rosemary ($5).
Dinner a few days earlier starts with cold beets doused with lemon and parsley ($4) and a gluten-free salad of curried quinoa and lentils over organic mesclun ($8).
Continuing on a health-?conscious kick, we spring for a Feel-?Good Magic pizza ($16 small/$35 16-inch large), another 9-?incher topped with the house’s famous tandoori chicken in gingery tomato sauce in addition to green-tea-?infused organic tofu, crunchy snow peas, roasted peppers and toasted almonds. And mozzarella. Antioxidant, anyone?
Draining the last of our fruity Quebecois gluten-?free beer (La Messagère) between bites of gluten-?free vegan chocolate cake (both $7), we order a couple of pies to go. By the time we get our Bountiful Magic pizza ($20/$44) – spinach, potato, artichoke, pecans, walnuts and blueberries with tomato sauce and lotsa mozza – back to the Test Kitchen 20 minutes later, its organic spelt crust has gotten somewhat soggy in the box due to the swamp of toppings.
The same sodden fate has overtaken our Abundance Magic pizza ($16/$35) heaped with garlicky salami, sausage, eggplant and gorgonzola. What, no blueberries?
But three minutes in a preheated oven cranked up as high as she’ll go brings both crusts back to crispy perfection as if by Magic.