Gourmet pizzas have traditionally been the domain of dine-in restaurants, but Za Pizzeria, a new takeout and delivery pizzeria in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, is helping to change that. On May 4th, owners and husband-and-wife team Jason and Lisa Constantini welcomed us to their new restaurant to sample some of their creations.
Jason Constantini previously worked at Pizzeria Libretto and Queen Margherita, and so brings a wealth of experience to their new venture. For their new pizzeria, he had a custom oven made, specifically designed for the pizzas they want to create. The ovens are actually large, custom gas barbecues that can reach temperatures of 700 degrees fahrenheit. Below the grill there is space for wood chips, to give the pizzas a hint of smokey barbecue flavour. The ovens also accommodate thicker pizza stones, allowing the crusts to bake to just the right crispness and texture. Fire bricks above regulate the temperature to cook the toppings. The result are pizzas that are ready in just three minutes once they enter these custom ovens.
Ingredients for these pizzas are specially chosen. For example, the dough uses wheat flour and soda water, making it quite light and airy. The toppings themselves are prepared with great care and thoughtfulness. For example, the chicken used in the Za-vlaki pizza is slow-cooked using the sous-vide technique, which ensures maximum tenderness. Once the pizzas come out of the oven, they are then finished with the remaining ingredients that don’t require baking.
The pizza menu is divided into three categories, with each more inventive than the next. For the Classics, your choices are the more traditional pizzas. Prices range from $9-15 per pizza, $5-8 per half pizza, and $3-4.50 per slice. You can have the Margherita, which uses just tomato sauce, mozzarella, and their herb mix. The pepperoni on their Pepperoni pizza is sourced from Dolce Lucano – the same place that provided the salumi for the amazing charcuterie board we had at the Carnivore Feast we attended last March. There is also the Funghi pizza which has sautéed mushrooms and goat cheese, and the Vegan pizza which has cauliflower and macademia nuts as two of the toppings.
For the Signatures, you get into more specialty pizzas. For example, the Oh Canada pizza is not the “Canadian” pizza we’ve come to expect (ie. mushrooms and Canadian sausage). Instead it has maple syrup, bacon, and potato chips. The sweet and salty is a great combination, and the crunch is unexpected; this pizza is a must-try. The Za-vlaki uses roasted chicken, which was extremely tender due to being sous-vide beforehand. The tatziki was creamy yet still light, and the pizza did genuinely reproduce the taste of souvlaki. The prices for the signature pizzas are $12-14 per pizza, $6.50-8 for a half pizza, and $3.50-4.50 per slice.
Finally, there are the pizzas belonging to the Features category – here you get into the truly gourmet offerings. These can only be ordered by the whole, with the prices ranging from $13-$18 per pizza. The Duck and Grapes pizza was my absolute favourite of the night. The duck confit was delicious, and the sweetness of the roasted grapes and the tartness of the balsamic were perfectly balanced. The Salmon Tartare pizza is very unique – one rarely sees fish on pizza, let alone in tartare form; this too was delicious. The Smoked Tomato and Arugula is a great vegetarian choice.
All the pizzas we sampled tonight were delicious, with many standouts that you can only get at Za Pizzeria. The passion, hard work, and thoughtfulness that the Constantinis have put forth into their pizzeria truly shows in their creations. Za Pizzeria is located at 402 Bloor St. West just west of Brunswick Ave and is well worth the visit. Regular hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 11 pm.