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Aug 9, 2011 01:01 PM

Any "Montreal-style" Pizza in Calgary?

I've been living in Calgary for 10+ years, and have yet to find what's often referred to as the "Montreal-style" pizza. What qualifies as "Mtl style" is really just a well made Greek-style pizza you find at a typical mom-and-pop diner. A Greek style pizza is usually piled high with toppings and has the cheese on top, and while Calgary does have many Greek-style pizza restaurants that ostensibly do this, they invariably end up tasting like cardboard for some reason. I don't know, maybe it's in the ingredients... A basic Mtl-style pizza has the following ...

- Crust: Hand-tossed, medium thickness, chewy. *NOT* a thick pan-style, and *not* dry and stiff-as-a-board.

- Sauce: Moderately salty, not too sweet, definitely not acidic. Texture is on the thin side, and to me looks like it's made with real tomatoes, as opposed to that thick goopy dark red acidic-tasting stuff that people out here seem to like and refer to as "tangy".

- Cheese: High-quality 100% mozerella. The kind you find in Montreal is salty, dense and chewy dammit! :-) There's usually lots of it. When cooked to perfection, it's very white with golden-brown areas.

I've tried a few places that have been recommended to me including Michael's, Tom's, and Spiro's, and none have come close. Even if they get the crust and sauce right, there seems to be something missing in the flavour and texture of the cheese! I don't know what it is... maybe you just can't get that kind of cheese out here (I'm told the Mtl mom-and-pops usually use Saputo)..?

"Good pizza" is relative -- there are authentic Italian-style pizzas in Calgary if you look hard enough, and there are a few interesting pizza's that don't fit into any special category like Coco Brooks and Voglio's. But I just can't find the specific Mtl. variation. Surely there must be other ex-Montrealers here who know what I'm talking about...?

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  1. BTW to be clear, I'm not talking about your el-cheapo 2-for-1 pizza joint, which is in abundance in every province accross Canada, Quebec notwithstanding.

    The attached photo is more what I'm after (nabbed from another Mtl-pizza thread somewhere else on the internet).

    A typical Mtl-style pizza looks like some variation of this, or often with the cheese on top. I need this!

    3 Replies
    1. re: DoubleFine

      Don't know if I've ever seen one like that in Calgary, but if you find it, I want a slice :)

      1. re: DoubleFine

        Different styles of pizza are so hard to describe. Which restaurants got the individual components right? For example, does anyone (even a chain) have the same crust as what you're describing? Did anyone get both the crust and sauce right?

        Greek pizza here seems to usually be pan pizza, and they usually use that bitter sauce you mentioned above, so it might be hard to find this at a Greek place. The thick cheese layer with browned bits sounds about right though.

        Isn't Saputo a huge national brand? It should be available everywhere in Canada.

        1. re: 23skidoo

          Now pressed, I can't think of any restaurant in C that has a crust that's even close. If I have to suggest one, then maybe Pulcinella in Kensington? Although it has more of a thin Italian-style crust, it has some of the same qualities in essence. It's got that hand-tossed look with the blistered crust and a chewy texture. But the photo I attached above should give you a pretty good indication of the crust I'm really talking about.

          As for sauce, I guess I'd have to say Pulcinella again. Spiro's on 17th is also pretty close for sauce as well.

          Here's a great article snipped from the Gazette, which describes "old school" Mtl-style pizza to a tee:

          Regarding Greek pizza, there are a couple qualifications:

          1. A quick Google led me to the discovery that a lot of the Montreal pizza joints were established by Italian immigrants in the early 1900's, and then perhaps appropriated by Greeks later on. This makes sense, because Mtl pizza does seem to be a hybrid of all the best qualities of the two styles.

          2. I wouldn't use "bitter" to describe the prevailing sauce in Calgary. Maybe sour or tart? Definitely pungent :-). When I get a mouth full of that citrous goop, it just overpowers all the other flavours. I hadn't noticed that was a Greek thing though -- I see this in most of the pizza in Calgary, and it seems influenced by the lousy American pizza chains that are so abundant here.

          1147 Kensington Crescent NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1X7, CA

      2. Two big problems with ever finding that style of pizza here.

        1. Almost all cheese on pizzas here come from Alberta and it'll be risky for a business to import special cheese from Montreal due to the costs.
        2. Our water is completely different from Montreal, thus bread/crusts will be different. There have been blind taste tests done that prove how important water is to bread making.

        32 Replies
        1. re: slingshotz

          #2 could be a myth.
          But even if the water does matter, you should be able to make a crust that is similar in style in Calgary.

          1. re: 23skidoo


            Drink enough water from around the world, and you can really taste the differences. I've never been to Montreal but I've been told it is quite different from Calgary. Even the water from Victoria tastes quite different from Calgary and it's much closer.

            1. re: slingshotz

              Here is some criticism of the Food Network video:

              I absolutely agree that tap water tastes different around the world. I just don't think that the Food Detectives video, and all the "folk wisdom" surrounding this claim, is good evidence that tap water makes a huge difference for dough.

              I still think that if an experienced NYC pizza maker came to Calgary with the proper flour and the right oven, they could achieve similar results as in NYC. (They might have to compensate for the flour being drier here, and so having a different weight per volume). I'm not sure anyone is trying to do this though. If I had an oven at home that went to 1000 deg F I would try it myself.

              1. re: 23skidoo

                I've read about both sides of this argument and although I do believe the water affects the crust to some extent, I tend to agree with skidoo.

                Also with regards to #1, saputo pizza mozz is readily available at co-op so I think a restaurant could easily source it if they chose to.

                I'd love it if somebody started up a 'Montreal style' pie shop in cow town. That sort of crust is definitely doable in Calgary.....somebody just has to choose to do it.

                Hell, the crust on my latest pie is kind of similar

                1. re: johnjohnson78

                  unfortunately there are several genres of pizza that would be easily doable in calgary, but which no one is doing. it's because calgarians are content with this fake 2-for-1 crap, and there really isn't any real desire for anything better. beats me.

                  1. re: nonlinear

                    Even after all these years, Calgarians are far too content with medeocrity when it comes to food. It's indisputable -- if it weren't the case, then 95% of the restaurants in this town would have dried up and disappeared years ago. Instead, with every new section of urban sprawl we get about 6 new bland American-style chain restaurants and 2-for-1 pizza places which somehow manage to thrive for years.

                    If people vote with their dollars, then medeocrety has won in this town. Sad but true.

                    1. re: DoubleFine

                      Get a grip :) Montreal, among many cities, is no stranger to American chains either. I cringe when McDonalds occupies prime real estate in London, Paris, Prague, etc, you get the picture. I suspect suburban Montreal is not a lot different from suburban Calgary.
                      Still, you're right, mediocrity rules here and elsewhere in Canada. But don't overlook the vast improvement in restaurant offerings over the last 20 years. It's day and night. I remember when Vancouver was 450,000 population and Robinstrasse was the street to be - you could get schnitzel - and other Germanic offerings or Canadian chinese. Look at Vancouvers restaurant offerings today.

                      Things have dramatically changed for the better and I have no reason to doubt that this trend will continue. Nonetheless, we will always have mediocrity. What's important in this equation is that today we also enjoy excellence.

          2. re: slingshotz

            You may be right, on both counts.

            After acclimatizing to Calgary produce, whenever I travel back east I'm always surprised at how "rich" the milk and butter taste out there. Eggs as well. We Calgarians have no idea how bland and watered down our produce tastes by comparison, and there'd be no real impetus for Calgarians to pay extra for imported produce.

            Also, this article... includes an anecdote from an old-school restaurenteur blaming the water for his crust never turning out when using the same recipe in the US. I'm a bit skeptical, but on the other hand I suppose if it were possible to make Mtl-style pizza crust out here then someone would have done it by now.

            1. re: DoubleFine

              Just for comparative purposes. Montreal Bagel on Elbow makes a Montreal bagel that would compete with any in Montreal including St Viature or Paramount. So I think the water argument, well, doesn't hold water too well.

              Montreal Bagels
              8408 Elbow Dr SW #103, Calgary, AB T2V 1K7, CA

              1. re: Scary Bill

                Hmmm... well, so much for the water argument.
                I suppose that leaves Calgary with no excuse at all! Grrrr.

                BTW thanks for the recommendation -- I'll have to try that place.

              2. re: DoubleFine

                Calgary is very dry, even in summer. Humidity greatly affects your sense of taste and smell.

                In regards to milk, brands here vary greatly in terms of richness. I've noticed this for years. Lucerne brand is terribly thin, even its 2%. Butter is the same deal - there is a massive difference in quality between brands here.

                1. re: Shazam

                  The differenceis likely the amount of non-fat milk solids added to make the milk seem richer.

                  1. re: Shazam

                    While I agree that humidity (or lack thereof) can affect smell and taste, I don't buy that as an excuse for the generally bland food out here. My parents sometimes bring food with them when they fly here from Mtl, and it's always as good as I remembered it to be. One time they brought some leftover pizza from Gigi's and it was heavenly.

                    I agree about Lucerne though. Isn't that the Safeway house brand? They have that same brand name in the US.

                    1. re: DoubleFine

                      Wow, I totally disagree with calling Calgary's food bland. Inconsistent, sure.

                      Try Nick's pizza. If you want REALLY cheesy, try Varsity, but it can be a greasefest.

                      1. re: Shazam

                        Nick's is on my list.

                        Re. bland Calgary restaurant food, yeah I guess "inconsistent" is the word. Of course I've had good food here, but in general you have to know where to find it, and chances are it won't be in your neighborhood (where I live in NW, I have to commute quite a distance to get to anything decent).

                        Granted since the time I moved here 15 years ago the restaurant scene -- particularly with asian restaraunts -- has gotten much better. My first year here, even the highest-rated restaurants at the time were just "OK".

                        1. re: Shazam

                          Tried Nick's pizza today, and it was not bad at all. They use a high quality cheese, and the crust was great! Apparently they make it from scratch, and you can taste the quaity.

                          Unfortunately Nick's uses that gloppy acidic tasting red tomato paste though, so my quest for pizza perfection in Calgary is not yet at an end. But putting that nit-picky detail aside, I'd definitely try Nick's again.

                          1. re: DoubleFine

                            nick's is IMO pretty "meh" (even for a greek bar pizza), and i'm not sure why people recommend it but then again this IS calgary. have you tried Matador yet, or Il Centro or Rea's? All 3 are certainly much closer to what you're looking for than Nick's is.

                            Il Centro
                            6036 3 St SW #106, Calgary, AB T2H 0H9, CA

                            1. re: nonlinear

                              It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but I didn't hate it. I gave Nick's points for the made-from-scratch crust and great service, and for being the "lesser-of-evils" when the only other options are... er, 95% of the other restaruants in Calgary.

                              I'll let you know when I've tried the above-mentioned recommendations.

                              BTW I also tried Nick's much-touted steak, and it was the typical brand of cardboard that has become synonymous with Calgary food for me. Seriously, next time someone recommends a restaurant to me, I'm going to ask for credentials. :-)

                              1. re: DoubleFine

                                Nobody touts Nick's steak, except maybe the sign above the restaurant.

                                Do you want suggestions for good steak, or do you just want to make vague generalizations and complain about Calgary?

                                1. re: 23skidoo

                                  I've recieved a few recommendations for Nick's steak, but I'll know better next time. I could always use suggestions for good steak, but maybe I'll save that for another thread.

                                  I do see your point -- and if I've over-stated my case, it's because I'm just getting frustrated that in a world class city like this one there's still such a dearth of great food. Again I'm not saying there aren't good restaurants -- it's just that you have to drive past so many bad restaurants to get to them. So I'm really just talking about ratios here. I honestly don't think that Calgarians realize how abnormal and unacceptable this is for such a large city.

                                  So if I complain, it's simply because I'm not content with the status quo. Are you?

                                  1. re: DoubleFine

                                    DF, I've been here 3 years and even in those 3 years I have noticed improvement in the food scene., you just have to spend time looking around, there really have been a lot of changes. There is a lot of room for improvement., but it is happening. I'll bet that within a couple of years, someone from Montreal will move here and start making the pizza you want. Also, if you want one of the best steaks you'll ever have, forget the restaurants, pick up a prime (grade, not cut) NY or boneless prime (the cut) from Costco (in the black package) and grill it on a real hot charcoal grill. It will probably spoil you for restaurant steak.

                                    1. re: Scary Bill

                                      Agreed, I've had fantastic steak made at home. My wife's prime rib is by far the best I've eaten. By the same token, I'm starting to think I might be able to make a decent pizza -- NYC style is very close, and the recipe is freely available on the internet. I'll share the results if I ever get around to making it.

                                      I've also noticed that the restaurant situation has gotten better... I just wish it would improve a little faster.

                                      1. re: DoubleFine

                                        Making your own will most likely be your best bet. Crank your oven as high as it will go, get a decent stone, a few cans of san marzanos and be prepared to make adjustments to the recipes (water, yeast, proof time etc) that were written in other parts of the world. I've found it almost always takes more water here due to the lack of humidity. With some persistence and practice you'll likely achieve a dough that you like.....

                                        1. re: johnjohnson78

                                          just go to and use the Lehmann NYC clone recipe. You don't need to make any adjustments for water, yeast, proof time, or anything. (actually, using that recipe, you can proof in the fridge for 1 night all the way up to a week or more.)

                                          1. re: nonlinear

                                            Agreed. I've tried that one and it works perfectly well. I just like to mess with these things until I get exactly what I'm looking for. And you are correct......the dough gets more flavourful in the fridge for up to 6 or 7 days before it becomes over risen.

                                            1. re: johnjohnson78

                                              Sounds good! Of course I'm starting from square one with no materials. I'm assuming a good mixer will be expensive. Any recommendations?

                                              Also, I had a brief look at that Lehmann NYC recipe and it seems to only give the ingredient quantities for mass batches -- not for a single pizza. Is that right? Maybe I just wasn't looking in the right place...

                                              1. re: DoubleFine

                                                ^^use the dough calculator on or, here is the formulation for a 14" pie:

                                                Flour (100%): 275.3 g | 9.71 oz | 0.61 lbs
                                                Water (63%): 173.44 g | 6.12 oz | 0.38 lbs
                                                IDY (0.7%): 1.93 g | 0.07 oz | 0 lbs | 0.64 tsp | 0.21 tbsp
                                                Salt (1.75%): 4.82 g | 0.17 oz | 0.01 lbs | 1 tsp | 0.33 tbsp
                                                Oil (1%): 2.75 g | 0.1 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.61 tsp | 0.2 tbsp
                                                Total (166.45%): 458.24 g | 16.16 oz | 1.01 lbs | TF = 0.105

                                                1. re: DoubleFine

                                                  you don't need a mixer, this isn't an overly dry dough and you should be able to do it by hand no problem. you can also use a breadmaker for kneading, some folks even use food processors.

                                                  1. re: nonlinear

                                                    Hi Folks,

                                                    Just a reminder that discussion of cooking techniques and recipes are off topic for regional boards. Further discussion belongs on the Home Cooking Board.

                                      2. re: DoubleFine

                                        "I honestly don't think that Calgarians realize how abnormal and unacceptable this is for such a large city. "

                                        Because, of course, none of us have ever been out of town. Get a grip.I've eaten crap in a few other cities too. It could always be better but I'd hold off on slashing my wrists for a little while.

                                        1. re: sharonanne

                                          Too true. Much ado about nothing I think!

                                          1. re: crazy_eoj

                                            Well taken. My point carried more gravitas than warranted, and I wish I hadn't articulated it in that way. All I meant to say is that I'm always taken by surprise -- and maybe more than a little annoyed -- at the number of lousy restaurants that manage to stay in business here. There are good ones, but the ratio is too low for a world-class city such as this one.

                    2. I haven't ordered one in months but I just thought I'd put a recommendation out there for Volos Pizza. It's a bit more like the traditional Greek style pan pizza that's common in Calgary but the crust is not super thick, the sauce is delicious and the cheese is of pretty good quality. Overall I like it better than most of the joints mentioned in this thread but that's obviously just one opinion. It's not exactly what the OP is describing but definitely a good pie worth trying and I never hear anyone talking about it.