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Jun 2, 2008 05:06 PM

Toronto Pizza Chains

Chowhounders, for a simple laid back evening with a couple of people, is there a pizza chain worthy of patronage in Toronto? I know there are a lot of threads about pizza but searching them I found a lot of focus on specific restaurants which are not in my area... not looking for oven baked perfection here, just something to order in and enjoy without too many stomach pains.

Pizza Pizza is proof that branding and marketing is all there is to running a business. I find Pizza Nova very thin and acidic. There is no limit to the grease at Pizza Hut and "2 4 1" is a discounted version of that. Pizzaville is very passable but there must be something better...

I don't think I have ever had "Mama's Pizza" but I went to their website and their prices are about 30% more than what I would expect to pay at a casual restaurant for a nice wood-oven pizza. Is it worth it??

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  1. mama's is good. for my money i like pizza nova, but guess thats a personal taste. the only other place i can think of is amato. but it is more expensive than mama's. what area do you live in? there are quite a few local places in t.o. with great pizza.

    1. I guess it depends on what kind of pizza you're looking for. Everybody knows if you want Chicago-style pizza, only one place in Ontario does it and it's in Hamilton. But what about New York style? Such a simple task but nobody here can make a pie that compares. Being of modest budget, when in New York on business we can't afford all the expensive Food Network chef places, but we always make sure to go to any local family-run pizzeria and take a basic cheese and basil pie back to our hotel room. Inexpensive but a treat that makes every trip to New York memorable. And we always wonder why we can't find that in Toronto. Whenever a local chain advertises a new "New York style" or "Brooklyn style" pizza we smirk because we know they won't even be close to the genuine article. Surely it can't be difficult.

      Of the local chains, Pizzaville and Pizza Nova are the best of a bad lot. Pizza Hut, grease hut, but you knew that already. Pizza Pizza is bad enough, but any chain that pushes price as their selling point is going to be crap. 2-4-1 (puke), the old 3-4-1 (out of business), Free Topping Pizza (yeah, if you like flies and maggots as free toppings)....

      7 Replies
      1. re: TexSquared

        100% agree with you on the New York pizza thing. A slice from Ray's Famous is the perfect street food (if you're wearing a shirt you're not particularly fond of!). It's just crust, tomato sauce, and cheese, but the cheese is chewy without dripping grease (unlike Jabba the Hut), the sauce is tasty and thick (unlike Za-Za), and the crust is the perfect balance between crisp and chewy. I agree it shouldn't be that hard to duplicate, except it is.

        I have to admit I have a soft spot for Pizzaville; their pies are slightly better than the other chains, and I really enjoy their advertising campaigns. I especially like the hot italian sausage.

        1. re: KevinB

          I've tried Ray's in New York and frankly don't get the big deal. It would good but not something that I would rave about. It's just street food, maybe half a step better than Pizza Nova or any of the others identified here. For my money, deep dish Chicago pizza is where its at.

          1. re: cynalan

            Thats because it USED to be so great...not any more and not for many many years now. In fact the name is bastardized all across the city.

        2. re: TexSquared

          There is a Los Angeles restraurnt now serving NY Pizza that they import the water from NYC for. They claim without real NY water you cannot get the crust right so maybe that is the trick for someone in TO to try.

          1. re: smr714

            What, our water isn't dirty enough? Hard to believe.

            1. re: mrbozo

              More likely not clean enough or, even more likely, not soft enough. NYC tap water is much better than ours. It's soft and it tastes good. Often used as a ringer in water tastings :-)

              1. re: embee

                I know some people have worked on and in the works department and all have said the same thing. Toronto's drinking water is some of the safest anywhere.
                Now, for cooking or baking, therein may lay the problem. Too hard probably.

                I also know someone who's conducting some test on what he'd heard. If you constantly aerate the water (like with a waterfall or something) the chemicals will diffuse into the air in about a day.


        3. Mama's is not bad - agreed that it is pricey and a bit greasy. My favorite is Panzarotto Pizza. It is a chain but not many locations however their pizza is the best for chain pizza and their prices work.

          6 Replies
          1. re: juliewong

            Mama's - good slices lousy delivery.

            1. re: juliewong

              Thanks for this tip, I am going to try both Mama's and Panzarotto. Mama's had better be damn good considering their prices -- the most expensive pizza on their menu is a 16 square pizza $35 which is artichokes, red peppers, and feta cheese!

              Also isn't there domino's in Canada... I am just sure I have eaten there before but unfortunately I can't remember anything about it.

              1. re: abscissa

                There is a Dominos in Toronto. At least one. I pass by one on Bathurst near Front.

                The last pizza I had from Dominos was before their major/well-publicized menu re-vamp. I ordered in to a hotel room while on vacation. It was so bad I couldn't finish one piece. The sauce was sweet and the crust very doughy. Supposedly they changed things somewhat for the better.

                In Toronto, I like Pizza Nova best of the bad lot. Mama's slices are good, but, their delivery is greasy and the cheese is too cheddar-y.

                I recently had a Pizzaiolo pizza at a staff function that was surprisingly good. I don't even know if they are a chain? And I've only had them once.

                1. re: Atahualpa

                  Pizzaiolo is my favourite of the chains. They have a number of locations in Toronto. The fellow at the one near us (Kingston & Dundas) takes pride in the pizzas he makes. I really like their slice options.

                  1. re: Atahualpa

                    I had Domino's the other day. I'm assuming I had their revamped crust and sauce. It was very good. As good as most indepedent pizza joints that you'd order from.

                    As for Pizza Nova, not only are they the best of the chains, their pizza is some of the best around period. Who's with me?

                2. re: juliewong

                  Of all the chains, my favourite is also Panzerotto Pizza. They stopped delivering to my area a few years ago - but I still prefer their slices and pizzas to the other chains. Not greasy, they do not skimp on the toppings and quality ingredients combined with good delivery service (when last I ordered, 2+ years ago)

                  Panzerotto Pizza
                  1446 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4T1Y5, CA

                3. Yeah, what's with New York and the awesome pizza?! The best American style (thick, tons of ingredients versus thin crust style) pizza I've ever had in my life was in a small town family restaurant in Glens Falls, Upstate New York. I can still taste it!

                  If you're looking for chain food, again, no one can beat the Americans. Domino's is wickedly evil... lots of cheese, a bit greasy (maybe a lot), but it's such comfort.. For a small Canadian chain, Amato's is excellent. There's even a knock-off Amato's called "Madanto's" - I figure it's a disgruntled former employee who stuck it to them. You don't say where you live - that might help in making suggestions. Massimo's has a couple locations, Terroni - same thing.

                  Mama's Pizza - no thanks - no appeal. It's so false Italian, it's shameful. Boycott. I don't think Pizza Pizza even tries to suggest there's anything Italian about it, so I respect them for that.

                  Please advise on neighbourhood's you're looking at. If I know I'll throw in some more ideas.

                  1. Mama's Pizza is amaaazingly consistent. I had a Mama's Pizza from their home location at Eglinton and Bathurst in 1969. Thirty-five years later , I did it again- even I learned something in teh 35 years. Nope. Exactly as I remembered. A thin crust nothing. A complete bore.