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Co-owners/chefs Josh Spatz (left) and Alex Potter serve up a juicy slice of Margherita.
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1. North of Brooklyn
650-1/2 Queen W, at Palmerston, 647-352-5700, northofbrooklyn.com
Though Josh Spatz and Libretto alumnus Alex Potter's minimally appointed 18-inch pies can be a tad underwhelming, as slices they're just about perfect.
We're particularly partial to NoB's Margherita ($3.90), a clash of quality San Marzano tomato sauce, rich milky cheese and bitter basil leaves on a nicely charred firm-but-floppy crust. Shaved spicy pepperoni slices ($4.20) don't become a sea of grease like most elsewhere, their crust sprinkled with sesame seeds a pleasant surprise. Best of the lot is the sauce-free white slice ($4.40), a terrific collision of raw arugula and buttery ricotta finished with a generous splash of olive oil and a grating of nutmeg.
Still hungry? Fill up on pizza "dough-nuts" doused in sea salt, thyme and salty parmigiano ($2.50 for four). And guess who's just introduced delivery by bicycle?
Open Monday to Saturday noon to 10 pm, Sunday noon to 9 pm. Closed some holidays. No reservations. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement.
2. Falasca SPQR
2059 Yonge, at Manor, 647-352-5155, falascaspqr.com
If you're looking for a pie to split over lunch, you've come to the wrong pizza joint. Dinner, no problem. But when the sun is high in the sky, this casual uptown takeaway offers more than a dozen slices daily from an impressive roster of 39 styles, all square and sold by weight.
You'll see owner/chef Alfiero Falasca's crisply crusted Funghi e Provola ($20/kg) thick with mushrooms, fresh mozzerell' and smoked provolone, and the neo-classical Toscano with liver pâté, porcini mushrooms, crumbled Italian sausage and a toss of fennel seeds for good measure. They don't get much more authentic - or à la minute - than the Pachino e Bufala with cherry tomatoes, basil and fresh buffalo mozzarella (both $26/kg). Those with a sweet tooth prefer theirs spread with Nutella and lightly dusted with confectioner's sugar ($24/kg).
Monday to Saturday 11:30 am till late, Sunday and holidays 5 pm till late. Licensed. Access: barrier-free.
3. Tommaso's Trattoria
400 Eastern, at Dibble, 416-466-0988, tommasostrattoria.com
A favourite with the nearby film and photography studios, Tommaso and Bambina Conti's old-school hot table causes lineups at lunch. And deservedly so, if only for their gargantuan pizza slices.
One day they'll show up topped with unctuous mozzarella and a whack of tissue-thin prosciutto. Another time they'll be piled with al dente asparagus, the next grilled Italian eggplant and a handful of peppery arugula (all $4). Washed down with a Brio ($1) and chased with a plate of house-made tiramisu ($6), is there a tastier meal deal east of the DVP? And, yes, they deliver.
Monday to Friday 7 am to 11 pm, Saturday 8 am to 11 pm. Closed some Sundays, some holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor.
4. Cora Pizza
656A Spadina, at Harbord, 416-922-1188, corapizza.com
Sorry, Wheaties, but the real Breakfast of Champions isn't to be found in a cardboard box but in the display case of this 32-year-old U of T institution. What better way to kick-start the day than with a couple of these exceptionally cheesy slices, especially if you need something to soak up the after-effects of the night before?
Regulars swear by the restorative powers of a quarter-pie wedge judiciously dressed with ground beef, 'shrooms, mozzarella and "tomatoe sauce" (the Texan) or shredded chicken, onions and sweetly roasted red peppers (the Cha Cha Cha). First-year students can ease their conscience with the Napolitano, a vegan cheese-free slice layered with a riot of animal-friendly sun-dried tomato and green olives (all $4.25, tax inclusive).
Too lazy to get out of bed? They deliver!
Monday to Thursday 10 am to 3 am, Friday and Saturday 10 am to 4 am, Sunday and holidays 11 am to 2 am. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door, no washrooms.
5. Fresca Pizza & Pasta
302 College, at Robert, 416-922-9555
Rising from the ashes of the fire that forced much-loved Massimo's to relocate to the wilds of Queen West, this U of T fave not only sports a menu almost identical to the original's, but the same guy who's always been there is still shoving pizzas into the oven.
Better yet, two-fisted slices continue to come topped with just mozzarella and pepperoni, while basic Margheritas get by on a modicum of sauce and basil. Most opt for the Deluxe upgraded with green pepper or double mozzarella, or the fancy-pants Caprese with chi-chi bocconcini (all $3.50, tax inclusive). And don't forget to load them up with garlic oil, olives and hot peppers. They're free!
Monday to Wednesday 11 am to midnight, Thursday 11 am to 1 am, Friday and Saturday 11 am to 2 am, Sunday and holidays noon to midnight. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free.
Photos by Steven Davey