Whether you want thin crust, thick, crispy or cheesy, locals like these slices best.
Toronto’s got good pizza. We know it, just like we know Queen Street is probably the best street in the world; Grange Park one of the best designed small parks anywhere; Will Alsop’s Sharpe Centre possibly the best-executed piece of fun architecture anywhere; and the islands and Scarborough Bluffs class-undivided urban getaways Seurat could barely have dreamed of.
We know it, but we don’t talk about it much, so let’s talk.
Torontonians got excited when Pizzeria Libretto opened in 2008. Real Neapolitan pizza. Thin crust, but soft, with a little char. Then Queen Margherita opened, with its official certification from Napoli itself, a little crisper.
Both are fine pizzas and have spawned a local neo-Neapolitan renaissance whose best practitioners, Maker (in a back alley near Queen and Spadina) and Blondies (five locations), now make some of the best pizza in the city (try Blondie’s Cold Drink/Hot Girl).
But we’ve had great pizza forever.
Like Dundas Pizza in the Junction. A neighbourhood long known for its pizza, home to Vesuvio, one of the city’s longest-lived pizza joints (1957-2020 RIP), the Junction’s got a lot of great food, but Dundas slices are probably the best.
With crusts thick and bready, heavy, with a moist crisp, cheese generous but not sloppy, as good reheated in the same oven it was baked in as it is fresh out of it, Dundas Pizza is the apotheosis of the slice, which can’t be fancy, but must be delicious.
Opened and still run by a media-shy Vietnamese family, Dundas is part of a little-known but very yummy Toronto pizza subculture that you could (though nobody does) call Vietalian.
Fresca is another candidate for the best slice. On the eastern outskirts of Little Italy on College just north of Kensington Market, Vien and Lieu Huynh’s place used to be called Massimo’s, when it was owned by an Italian family of that name. But when the family’s son decided to fire the largely Vietnamese cooking staff, the business never recovered. Then Vien, one of the former cooks, got the lease to the old spot, and for at least the last decade, has been making pizza the old Massimo’s—that is, Vietnamese—way.
If you want to try other Vietalian slices, also descended from the Massimo’s kitchen, there’s King Slice in Bloordale and Queen West, and Capi’s in South Etobicoke, owned and run by Don Tudo, who went to school with the King Slice owner’s brother in Hue, Vietnam’s last royal capital.
The College slice
There’s a lot of good pizza on College Street, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. The college slice is something all its own, known the world over, if only through the beer-fogged memory of generations of students who spend the rest of their lives trying to reproduce the glamour and glory of that late-night post-pub or mid-all-nighter slices.
With more than 60,000 University of Toronto students within stumbling distance, Cora and Papa Ceo (pronounced “chayo” not “C.E.O.”), have done battle for the hearts and guts of students for more than four decades.
Both were founded in 1984, both have had multiple owners, and no one seems to know who Cora and Papa Ceo may have been (the latter was founded by Tony Bonventre), but Matt Chung, who has owned Papa Ceo since 2017, says what distinguishes his slices from those next door is the dough.
“Ours is more crispy,” says the 28-year-old music writer (and one-time B.C. Leo award nominee).
He bought it on the advice of his great uncle, Tai Lam, aka Master Tai, who has been a cook there for 20 years (after spending some time cooking next door).
Chung’s family is also Vietnamese as it happens, as are—he says—all the cooks next door at Cora’s. When asked what it is about Vietnamese pizzas in Toronto, Chung says he’s pretty sure it’s because they’re just better at it.
“Everyone’s a perfectionist,” he says. “I actually get annoyed sometimes, that they’re making things too perfect. We’ve got a lot of pizzas to make, but they say it has to be perfect, perfectly circular, even.”
Best of the rest
Pizzaiolo is another home-grown pizza place that is many people’s pick for the best chain slices available, but for the most part, the best pizza in this great pizza town is to be had from the indies and minichains (and now even secret balcony pizza).
Talk to five Torontonians and you’ll get seven opinions on the best pizza, but here are some of the other spots that come up frequently: