Lebron James’ pizza chain opens at Yonge and Dundas

Is the first Canadian location of Blaze Pizza a slam dunk?

Blaze Pizza, a fast-casual pizza chain backed by celeb investors like NBA superstar LeBron James, opens a new restaurant the U.S. every four days on average. Presumably, they’ve begun running out of real estate south of the border, since the company has finally made inroads into Canada, opening a Yonge-Dundas location in a spot formerly occupied by Johnny Rockets.

Though the place prides itself on speed, it took a while to get here. Outfits like 180 Secondi, One Pizza and 90 Second Pizzeria got the jump on introducing Torontonians to a similar concept, and though those spots have found a niche turning out pizzas for neighbourhood office workers, they haven’t exactly taken the GTA by storm. Still, there’s no shortage of appetite for a quick meal in Dundas Square, and the area is a prime testing ground for big-budget chains looking to plot out a Canadian expansion.

The spare, modern restaurant features a long counter where you can watch your pizza being built, assembly-line style. Eight or so signature pizzas are available for $10.45, or you can build your own for the same price. For a cheaper option, a “one-top” pizza (sauce, cheese and a single topping) is $7.45.

Unlimited toppings, built into the price, range from indulgent (applewood bacon, ovalini mozzarella, salami) to virtuous (chicken, turkey meatballs, a whole rainbow of veggies). There are clearly listed calorie counts for each and every complete pizza and individual ingredient, a nod to their American pedigree (which just might come back to bite them – or at least help them sell more salads).

At the end of the line, your pie hits the oven where, according to a company press release, “dedicated pizzasmiths” ensure the thin-crust pies are fast-fired and ready to eat in just 180 seconds”.

Is it any good? For a fast takeout lunch in Dundas Square, or for grab-and-go pizza in general, you could do far, far worse. The crust is thin, light and chewy, the sauce slightly sweet, and the toppings (particularly the fennel-spiced sausage) are flavourful and reasonably generous. (Extras like blood orange lemonade and S’more pies, built on McVities’ digestives and ready to heat up in the pizza oven, are nice too. Take that, Chipotle tortilla chips!)

True, you’ll find cheaper slices at the usual-suspect chain pizzerias, a more interesting take on a similar fast-casual concept at One Pizza a few minutes south, and QMP or Mangia e Bevi won’t even bat an eyelash. But it’s a hell of a lot better use of that storefront than Johnny Rockets.

10 Dundas East, at Victoria, 416-979-3626, blazepizza.com

food@nowtoronto.com | @nataliamanzocco

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