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PIZZA E PAZZI (1182 St Clair West, at Dufferin, 647-352-7882, pizzaepazzi.ca) Complete dinners for $35 per person (lunches $25), including tax, tip and a glass of vino. Average pizza $18. Open Sunday to Thursday noon to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday noon to midnight. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
To be certified by the associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the organization that determines the authenticity of Neapolitan-style pizza, is much like being honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Pony up the lire and you're in.
The latest AVPN-approved trat to launch locally, Pizza e Pazzi ("Pizza and Crazy") lives up to its name. Owners and first-time restaurateurs Danilo and Sandrelle Scimo must be nuts to open a pizzeria kitty-corner across the Corso Italia to Marcello's. And who in their right mind offers a meal deal as ridiculously wallet-friendly as Pazzi's Monday-to-Wednesday aperitivo special?
From 5 to 7 pm, pay 10 bucks for any beverage in the house, alcoholic or otherwise - a pint of Moretti ($7.50 à la carte), a cappuccino ($3.25), a glass of Prosecco ($9), say - and get the house's terrific starter buffet, too. Tonight, the impressive spread includes old-school eggplant parmigiana layered with sweet San Marzano tomato sauce, an antipasti plate of imported cheese 'n' cold cuts, a large green salad in regulation balsamic, and a couple of entry-level pizzas like a white-sauced Mimosa stuffed with rapini ($14.75).
"I'm just putting out a Margherita!" shouts Scimo as he races past our table, pie in hand, straight from the wood-burning oven.
Thanks, but we've already ordered it, a remarkably thin-crusted wonder that's correctly blistered, cracker-crisp but still foldable, and dressed with family-recipe sauce, DOP mozzarella di bufala and a wayward basil leaf or three ($13). The Contadina ($15.75) switches out the bufala for fior di latte and a toss of explosively ripe baby Roma tomatoes, while the Valtellina ($19.75) layers a garlicky white pie with shaved bresaola, parmigiana and a heap of raw arugula splashed with quality olive oil and a last-minute squeeze of lemon.
Despite the starter buffet, we've still managed to make room for beefy meatballs (hold the spaghetti but bring on the house-baked bread) in "gravy" (Polpette della Nonna, $9.75), perfectly al dente papardelle in a textbook bolognese ($14.75) and nutmeg-scented ricotta manicotti ($15.75). An over-the-top tiramisu al caffe ($7.50) of espresso-dipped savoiardi lady fingers in boozy zabaione dished up like some ice cream sundae makes a suitably spectacular finish.
With its downtown exposed-brick decor, retro Bon Jovi soundtrack and the fourth-best pizza in Toronto - not to mention that early-bird aperitivo special - only a fool would pass on Pazzi.