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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.

                DT

        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.
                    VVM

                    1. After trying Panago a few weeks ago I don't think I will go back to any others.

                      Now if only a pizza place would have habanero's for a topping.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MindGrinder

                        Firstly we do have some Domino's location in the GTA and imho you should run the other way when ever you see one... They are horrible. As for the standards I find Pizza Pizza makes a passable BBQ chicken however everything else is inedible!!! Pizza Nova is my go to for delivery. But get this... Some of the Dominion stores are now making Pizza for pick up and they are surprisingly really good

                      2. If you don't enjoy the thin crust at Pizza Nova, I would advise against Mama's. Mama's crust is very thin, flavorless, and tends to become very soggy by the time it makes it's way to your home.
                        If you like a thicker crust, you might want to try Piziolo(sp?) I've had some decent slicess from their Queen W. location.

                        1. I really like Mama's Pizza. We ordered in from them the other day and it was delicious. Nice thin crust and good toppings.

                          1. Thank you very much everyone for all the excellent tips in this thread... I always follow up on suggestions. I tried Mama's Pizza for the first time today, though I confess I could only talk myself into getting a plain pepperoni pizza. The crust was very thin, but unlike Pizza Nova the sauce was not so overwhelming that you were eating acidic mush. I didn't mind it horribly, and for $12 I thought it was very decent (virtually every pizza place has a $9.99 special), but their other pizzas just look so absurdly expensive for take-out that I probably won't order from there again. On the other hand many of the chains now have a "philly cheese steak" pizza... I couldn't imagine anything worse except maybe the "KFC famous bowl". Maybe it is simply time to switch to other foods...

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: abscissa

                              I wish I could put this in a smaller font but I have to admit that the Philly cheese steak pizza from (oh god) Domino's is a huuuge guilty pleasure of mine. I think it's the processed cheese, it reminds me of Imo.

                              Those KFC bowls however..... *shudder*.... I should have some kind of food guardian angel that keeps me away from these things.

                              1. re: Manybears

                                I have to agree that since trying Panago, I won't go back to any other pizza chains. We've had their Philly Cheese steak pizza (yummilicious), their garden veggie (lots of toppings, no stinginess here), and a chicken pizza (I can't recall the name, but it had pineapple). Oh, and we tried the wings. Everything was great and no left-overs. I also like that we can order a multigrain crust.

                                1. re: czthemmnt

                                  I was just looking at Panago's website, and I must say that the pizzas look yummmy. (Even a vegetarian pepperoni one? Excellent!) However, they list no prices. (Argh!) What do their pizzas cost?

                                  1. re: thought_for_food

                                    I think we paid about $17 for a large primo capicollo plus taxes.

                                    It was delivered fast, fresh and hot and no skimping on great toppings.

                            2. If I have to go to a chain, I go to Pizzaville.

                              Fortunately the area I live in gives me lots of independent pizza makers who are leagues ahead of any chain pizza place.

                              1. What area are you looking for delivery to abscissa? Mabye someone can point out an independent pizza place in your hood worth trying.

                                1. Please check out Dino's Wood burning Pizza. 820 The Queensway. He has an amazing thin crust and great sauce. Considering Ive eaten alot of NYC pizza, Dino's comes the closest to matching a slice of new yorks finest. Its not a chain so there is some pride put into these pizzas, please check it out.

                                  1. Try PIZZAIOLLO, or AMATTO, closes things to real pizza, but why waste time with crap mass marketed cardboard, spend the dough, no pun intended. Terroni on Queen West makes the closest thing to real Italian. LIL BaCI is okay, needs to stay authentic, and stop with the dried chili flakes.

                                    1. Should you find yourself taking the trek through Port Hope or Peterborough ...
                                      Jim's Pizzeria comes highly recommended..
                                      no fancy chicken and falafel with wings type toppings.
                                      Or maybe they do offer, I've just never noticed ...
                                      Not a big fan of the PASTA sauce, something cinnamon'y about it thats just wrong ...
                                      but the pizza rocks ....

                                      1. Pizzaiolo and Amato are both great (amato hit or miss sometimes) Dominos Philly Cheese steak pizza is amazing

                                        1. As far as chains go, I say Pizzaville is the best I love there crust (almost meaty) and the sause is nice, a little sweet. I havn't tried Panago though and they do look good too.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: R1chardsred

                                            Sweet is for doughnuts, not pizza.

                                          2. Definitely stay away from Pizza Nova. On the recommendations in this thread we tried it tonight for the first time and it was absolutely AWFUL. First, we ordered for pick up. The operator told us it would be ready in 20 minutes. When we got there (20 minutes later), they were just putting it in. After waiting a bit the cashier suggested that we didn't have to wait and that they would deliver it (for free). Of course, now we had to tip the delivery guy. They didn't offer to throw anything else in for the trouble of driving in to pick it up and then sending us away. When we did finally get the pizza delivered (which, to their credit, was shortly after we got back home), it was moderately burnt and it tasted horrible. All in all, a terrible experience. We've ordered from Pizza Pizza, 2 for 1, and Panago, and all of them are a million times better than Pizza Nova.

                                            -----
                                            Pizza Nova
                                            , Toronto, ON M5G, CA

                                            1. I have no qualms with Pizza Pizza.. I love their crispy crust. I love Pizzeria Libretto and Terroni too.. at the end of the day I'll still have a slice from Pizza Pizza once in a while.. It's not THAT bad..I actually think ti's better than PIzza Nova, Pizza Hut, Mama's Pizza, Pizzaiolo is okay .. true cardboard and disgusting tasting pizza I had was from someplace in Waterloo called Bianca's/Tito's.. disgusting. Pizza pizza is convenient, always hot, and turnover is always really good. So their crusts aren't that tasty.. but they've got the dipping sauce right (only creamy garlic that is) and it works.

                                              Can't believe how many times I wrote pizza in this post

                                              -----
                                              Pizzeria Libretto
                                              221 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                              1. Sorry for responding to such an old post.

                                                I don't think I eat pizza like many others who have posted here. I always order delivery and lead a solitary life, so usually eat it alone. I'll share my experiences.
                                                241 Pizza. If you are looking for "a whole lotta pizza" this is where you need to go. Price and service are fair, but I find the pizza to be very dusty/floury.
                                                Pizzaville. My current chain-of-choice, but they don't deliver to all areas. good price and service, fast delivery, very helpful if there is a problem.
                                                Pizza Nova. The only chain that will guarantee they deliver to your apartment door. Most others refuse to deliver to your door in apartments, only to the lobby. If I wanted to go out, I'd go out and eat somewhere else!! I found the prices, service, and delivery all sub-par however.
                                                Dominos. Far too pricey. If you are looking for a deal where you get a meal for a few people with tonnes of toping and sides, this is when you save. I find the pizza too thin and floury. Service is fine, but delivery is slow.
                                                Pizza Hut. Very greasy, which is a great thing, I love greasy pizzas. Prices are though the roof. Delivery is standard, but service is abhorrent! If you want to be treated poorly, call their customer service line.
                                                Mamas pizza. There used to be a location near work and I'd grab a slice once in a while. Never had delivery from them though. Service is good. The slices are very thin and somewhat greasy, but for some reason they are just so good!
                                                Pizza Pizza. I've saved this one for last for a good reason. Taste and Prices are a bit above par, and the service from the phone line is good. Delivery depends on your location. Deliveries to work arrive super fast. Deliveries to my home however are a disaster, and I refuse to order from home from this chain.

                                                If I had to rank them, I'd say Pizzaville, 241, Mamas. Pizza Hut would make the top of the list if they could get their customer service department to provide customer service, and Dominos would do the same if they could bring their prices down to more reasonable levels.

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: TheNewTeddy

                                                  I would say for chain type places, Mama's and Domino's would have to be my picks.

                                                  This is a little off topic but has anyone ever notice the difference between how good Pizza Pizza is between a venue type place and their regular take out places???

                                                  An example I'm talking about is if you get a slice from the ACC, Rogers Centre or a personal pizza at Canada's wonderland, it's amazing!!! Some of the best pizza I've ever had. Then you go to your local Pizza Pizza it's barely eatable.

                                                  1. re: C mac

                                                    edible. And its because of turnover. They pump out fresh pizzas every 5 minutes at those venues. Fresh equals good.

                                                    1. re: haggisdragon

                                                      daaa....yes edible is what I meant to say..lol. Thanks

                                                    2. re: C mac

                                                      C mac my friends and I always laugh that. Pizza Pizza is way better at a venue, even better than if you order it fresh at a store and bring it home. I guess from oven to plate makes a huge difference but it's true! We also concluded it's a volume thing but it always seems gooier than anything that comes from a store.

                                                      The Dominos Brooklyn Style is my standby. It's not reallt New York Style but rather solid thin crust pizza with a more flavourful sauce than most. The mozz/provolone blend on top also adds to this. It is pricy but google for online coupon codes and you can usually knock a few dollars off.

                                                      Oddly enough I was tipped off to this while on a ski lift at Whistler. I was riding with an American transplant living in Vancouver that was in Toronto all the time for biz. We were talking about lack of solid pizza offerings and both cities. He revealed his standby being the Dominos Brooklyn Style and glad I listened.

                                                      Runner ups are:
                                                      Pizza Nova - Sauce and toppings have an edge over most.
                                                      Panago - Flavour is decent, benefit is lack of grease. I like a greasy pizza but it's nice to have an alternative.

                                                      1. re: abigllama

                                                        I can't believe that I'm posting this but the key to a good Pizza Pizza pizza is thin crust, well done, extra sauce and eaten within minutes of it coming from the oven.

                                                        My favorite new chain pizza is Pizzaiolo - great crust. Their slices are super generous and the spinotta (spinach, ricotta and fresh tomato) is head and shoulders one of the best slices in the city (even re-heated).

                                                        1. re: Pizza Lover

                                                          If I'm forced to order Pizza Pizza, I get the thin crust. I will try the extra sauce option next time.

                                                          1. re: Pincus

                                                            For my family, thin crust, homestyle tomato sauce and olive oil makes their pizza edible. :) For toppings my husband and I always get sausage and pineapple.

                                                          2. re: Pizza Lover

                                                            I have been eating PIzzaiolo since I moved close to one of their locations, a few years ago and love it. My favourite is the Bianca (feta, artichoke hearts, zucchini). I usually get an extra slice for the next day. Definitely agree on the reheated quality; even in the microwave it never gets soggy.

                                                          3. re: abigllama

                                                            @abigllama

                                                            Okay so it's not just me. I thought I might be crazy...lol.

                                                      2. Recently started ordering from Regino's (a small chain in east GTA), thanks to a tip on here. Really good for the price.

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: Pincus

                                                          If they're the same as the Regino's in Aurora, they are good.

                                                          DT

                                                          -----
                                                          Reginos
                                                          14810 Yonge St, Aurora, ON L4G1N3, CA

                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                            Sorry, my fault, they are the same. I just have an eastern GTA bias, but it's all the same chain.

                                                            1. re: Pincus

                                                              Any tips for delivery in north york? think Allen and Eg area.....

                                                                1. re: Pincus

                                                                  We live just outside the Etobicoke border in Mississauga and for many years were pleased with an independent named Mississauga Pizza on Lakeshore...alas they closed up a few years ago and in my opinion there is nothing else that can compare..."double cheese" is anything but anymore...when will they introduce "triple cheese" to satisfy us cheese addicts?
                                                                  TRUE STORY-after our fave closed up we started to order from Pizza Hut until one day when the delivery guy shows up in front of our bungalow and I am watching through the window...delivery guy is messing around with that thermal packaging thing...reaches in and pulls out a slice...and eats it...then delivery guy starts to mess about with the rest of the pizza to make it look like a piece isn't missing...comes to door and I open it up before paying delivery guy and sure enough a piece (but now not so obvious) is missing...my wife and I tell delivery guy where to stick the pizza...he denies it all...then says don't report it or he will get fired. I call Pizza Hut and speak with some chick who doesn't believe me...I ask to speak with her supervisor who is somewhat more sympathetic and advises that upper management will call me the next day and that she will also forward some complimentary coupons...of course no call ever came nor the coupons...and I have never eaten at Pizza Hut since (nor will I ever again).

                                                                  1. re: Beermonger

                                                                    Ha ha, classic story, beermonger. Although, if the pizza is good, I think I'd just pick it up from the place.

                                                        2. Panago is my pick for good pizza delivery from a chain
                                                          Pics: http://www.cookiesandtomatoes.com/201...

                                                          Ordered from them awhile back, We decided to go with the "create-your-own" option (multi-grain crust, Passata tomato sauce, Pepperoni, green olives, Caramelized Onions, Red peppers, Fire-roasted portobello mushrooms. Fire-roasted tomatoes, Spicy Italian sausage

                                                          )

                                                          They have a good selection of toppings, and the quality is good especially for a chain. My friend claimed he likes it better than Danforth Pizza House, but I completely disagree! Good crust, I'm always a fan of multi-grain and thin.

                                                          -----
                                                          Danforth Pizza
                                                          920 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J1L9, CA