Toronto, ON M4S 2N2
Ever since the opening of Pizzeria Libretto, Toronto has seen the rise of a completely welcome and completely delicious Neapolitan epidemic. Queen Margherita opened in the east end last year; then came Pizza e Pazzi. Just last month, Viva Napoli opened on Mount Pleasant by first time restaurateur and long-time pizza aficionado Giustino Iorio. He admits that he was inspired by Libretto, but for him, Da Michele, the legendary pizzeria from Naples, is the true standard.
The concept: Iorio wants his customers to experience Naples in Toronto. Yes, that means Neapolitan pizza, but it also means Neapolitan music, staff and décor. Iorio lived in Naples for 11 years and returns there frequently for pleasure, business and of course, pizza, which he says gives him an edge. An authentic Neapolitan pizza should be served by an authentic Neapolitan, he says.
The hood: Mount Pleasant and Soudan, across the street from Lai Toh Heen.
The eats: Viva Napoli’s menu is quite literally all about the pizza. “I don’t want any distractions,” Iorio says. Currently, 23 pizzas ($10-$25) are on offer in addition to an antipasto of the day (like caprese salad or octopus salad, $8) and a few desserts, like the Nutella pizza ($7). Beer selection is just as focused: Peroni ($5) is the only bottled beer on offer and Mill Street Organic ($5 a pint) is the only draft beer (Iorio would have gone solely with Peroni if it came on draft, he says). Wines ($9 per glass) are all from Italy’s Campania region.
The octopus salad
Anyone familiar with Neapolitan pizza will recognize Viva Napoli’s rubric: high-quality Italian flour; San Marzano D.O.P tomato sauce; ultra-thin crusts cooked at high temperatures for low durations; not to mention the wood-burning oven from Naples. Iorio had to tear down a wall to get the 7,500 pound behemoth inside.
Interestingly, Viva Napoli has opted to use fresh fior di latte cheese from Vaughan’s Quality Cheese instead of imported buffalo mozzarella. That would have entailed using cheese that’s several days old, something nobody in Naples would put on a pizza, Iorio says. Besides, if Da Michele uses cow’s milk cheese, so can he.
The owner’s favourite: A pizzeria should always be judged by its Margherita ($13) — the basic sauce, cheese and basil pizza — first and foremost, Iorio says. Still, he’s currently on an Ortolana ($15) kick. That version features grilled eggplant and zuccini, as well as peppers, cherry tomatoes and fior di latte.
Coming soon: An extended menu featuring pastas and other antipastos, all Naples-specific and cooked in an old-school style, like Grandma would have done.
By Jon Sufrin
Published: July 14, 2011