Donair pizza from King of Donair. Photo, Applehead Photography
Forget about New York thin crust and Chicago deep-dish for a second. Canada has original and totally delicious pizzas of its own—from Montreal all-dressed to Windsor-style. We present to you 8 hidden gems of homegrown pizza well worth a cross-country trek.
It’s no secret that Halifax is all about donair, which was invented in the east coast city when a Greek restaurateur named Peter Gamoulako swapped the lamb in gyros for beef and added a “donair sauce” (a sweet and savoury sauce made with evaporated milk, vinegar, sugar, and garlic). As the dish became synonymous with the city, chefs got creative. You can now pick up donair pizza made with the special donair sauce instead of classic pizza sauce, and topped with mozzarella and donair meat, or even feast on garlic fingers dipped in donair sauce. Locals recommend Revana Pizza for donair pizza—and you can pick up garlic fingers at most places, including King of Donair (Gamoulako’s original spot, which also has a notable donair pizza).Photo, Applehead Photography
The secret to this family business is a special brown sauce. It all began when Greek brothers Demetre (Jim) and George Kouyas moved to Pictou County and began working on a pizza sauce. With the help of their friend Nikos Geroulakos, they wound up perfecting a brown sauce that takes six hours to make. “Many have tried to imitate our recipe with little success, as the secret to our recipe is not the ingredients but the timing at which our ingredients are added during preparation,” explained Doug Bonvie, the current president of Pictou County Pizza Inc.
A Pictou County pizza begins with a thick, doughy crust which is then slathered with the spicy brown sauce. The pizza is topped with cheese on top of locally operated Brothers Meats’, served with a side of donair sauce for dipping. What is in the sauce is a family secret, and different family members went on to run their own shops. County expats missing the taste of home can find jars of the sauce on sale throughout Atlantic Canada and there are ways to order a frozen or fresh pie, depending on where you are.The "Works" pizza. Photo, Courtesy of Pictou County Pizza
Montreal-style all-dressed pizza is distinct for how the toppings—always sliced pepperoni, mushrooms and green pepper—are piled onto the dough first, then covered in heaps of mozzarella. The crust is dense and full of air bubbles on the inside, but still soft along the edges. The result is a deliciously cheesy home-style pizza. Note that all-dressed refers to the three main toppings—you can still get a Montreal-style pizza with that flaky uneven crust featuring other toppings, it just won’t be the classic all-dressed anymore.
Roma Bakery has garnered a cult following of pizza evangelists for their unique slab pizzas. The DiFilippo family has been in the business for three generations, making the same top-secret recipe. A slab features a light and airy crust and no cheese. You can add toppings, but the most popular pizza is a plain pizza—with just tomato sauce and no meat. As their pizza boxes call it, it’s “the original bread pizza.” You can serve it at room temperature, and it’ll still be delicious. Roma’s website has a testimonial page full of requests to ship pizzas miles away, and one man famously brought a slab all the way to Beijing.Photo, The Mix HamOnt
Although sushi pizza isn’t really pizza in any sense save for how it emulates the shape, we’d be remiss not to give Toronto chef Kaoru Ohsada credit for inventing such a trendy food item. He found his inspiration for sushi pizza while eating smoked salmon on a hash brown. The result is a deep-fried rice base topped with sashimi, spicy mayo, and tobiko (flying fish roe). You can still try it at Nami, where Ohsada first made sushi pizza, or at plenty of other sushi restaurants across Canada that now have their own versions of the dish.Photo, Courtesy of Nami
Pizza is no joke in Windsor, Ontario. What makes it special? Rumours say that there is something in Windsor’s water that helps to make it so good. A classic Windsor-style pie features peppers, canned mushrooms, locally sourced fresh cheese, spicy sauce, thick dough, and shredded pepperoni (versus your standard circle) so that every single bite is full of flavour. Legend has it that Volcano Pizzeria was the city’s first pizza shop, and their unique recipe proliferated as new pizzerias popped up. Locals emphasize that unlike Montreal-style pizza, you will also always find toppings on top of the cheese in Windsor.Photo, Courtesy of Arcata Pizzeria
Hawaiian and sushi pizza aren’t the only notable Canadian pizza inventions—Winnipeg’s Paul Faraci revolutionized snacking forever when he invented Pizza Pops in 1964. According to the CBC, Faraci made “Italian cheese-filled turnovers” and their popularity eventually led to a business, which he sold to Pillsbury in 1980. The mass-produced version of the snack that many of us are now familiar with is quite different from the first recipe. Fortunately, you can try “Paul’s Original Pizza Snacks” at his great nephew Anthony Faraci’s food truck, Faraci Foods, in Winnipeg.Photo, Faraci Foods
To be fair, Hawaiian pizza isn’t really a “regional” pizza, but it is a Canadian invention—love it or hate it—worth trying. Legend has it that restaurateur Sam Panopoulos invented the pineapple-and-ham combo and first introduced it to the world at Chatham, Ontario’s Satellite Restaurant back in the ‘60s. Panopoulos told Food Network that, “For a long time, we were the only ones serving it.” While the restaurant has different owners now, you can still order the invention at its original home (and pretty much everywhere else).Photo, iStock/Mustang_79
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