Posted by: Kennedy | May 18, 2010

Pizzeria Libretto… as close to Italy as I can get

When I returned to Canada last summer after traipsing around Europe, I was convinced I’d never truly love a pizza or pasta here again. I’d had the very best in the world – how could one go back to the blissful ignorance of believing her store-bought thin crusts were ‘gourmet’ and that the plethora of pizza served up in Little Italy was ‘the real thing?’

I didn’t mean to be a food snob, but I wasn’t sure I could still appreciate Toronto’s version of Italian meals after I’d tasted the glorious flavours of Naples.

I knew there was only one place to go to find out.

Pizzeria Libretto has quickly become one of the city’s gastronomical wonders. Located in the heart of the hipster Ossington neighbourhood, it’s attracted a lot of new blood to the area. Lines have been known to start as early as 5:30 on a weeknight, but folks know it’s worth the wait. It also helps that the hostess will call your cell phone when your table is ready so you can go around the corner for a drink or stroll around the block while you wait.

Once seated, you enjoy a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The menu is simple, with plenty of local and organic pizza toppings to choose from. It’s delicious, and surprisingly affordable if you can restrain yourself from ordering one of the mouth-watering appetizers or desserts.

I’ve been to Libretto just twice – the first time being well over a year ago. I recalled it as the best pizza I’d ever had in Toronto. And last month, I had an opportunity to visit once again with some friends. It only reaffirmed my belief.

We booted it to the restaurant from the office and made it before 6 – effectively beating the dinner rush. After bringing us a bottle of red, our waiter listed off the evening’s specials – including a goat cheese and fiddlehead bruscetta appetizer, which we immediately ordered. How awesome is that?! A combo I never would have thought to put together, it was fresh, unique and delish. We also shared a plate of one of our all-time faves: calamari.

Unreal combo: Goat cheese and fiddleheads

Calamari in amazing sauces

And then there was the pizza. I had the Ontario Prosciutto and Arugula, made with garlic, tomato, oregano and shaved parmigiano reggiano. As you can see, it was heavenly – so much so that I dug in before realizing I’d forgotten to snap a photo!

Nearly the best pizza I've ever had...

Despite being stuffed, we talked each other into splitting the chocolate afogato (gelato drowned in espresso) for dessert. A few spoonfuls is all you need of this rich and sweet bowl of awesomeness. Sorry there’s no photo – it disappeared too quickly!

What makes Libretto’s pizza stand out?  For starters, the chef, Rocco Agostino, follows the pizza-making principles of Naples, the dish’s birthplace. They use local, natural ingredients. They cook the pies in a wood-fired oven at extremely high temperatures (900 degrees!) to get that ‘almost-but-not-quite-burnt’ crust. They make their dough from never-bleached, 100 per cent organic stone ground flour. Every day, fresh San Marzano tomatoes and Fiore di Latte mozzarella are delivered to the kitchen.

These guys work under the belief that if you’re not respecting these guidelines when making pizza, you’re not technically making “pizza.” If you’d like to know what constitutes an authentic Neapolitan pizza in the minds of the Italians, read more about Libretto’s ideology here.

To me, what’s most interesting is the difference good-quality ingredients (read: zero preservatives or chemicals) and the method of preparation can make to a food’s flavour. I mean… pizza’s pizza, right? I thought so. But there was definitely a certain “je ne sais quoi” about the pizza in Italy. Judging by name and appearance, it looked like any other gourmet pizza around here. But it tasted SO. MUCH. BETTER! And the food at Pizzeria Libretto vividly brings back those memories.

It proves that when you use the freshest possible ingredients, you’re going to get the best tasting food. It seems such a simple concept when you say it (type it?) out loud. But it’s one we don’t often put into practice through our daily eating habits.

Lately, I’ve started taking steps to adopt the ‘fresh’ concept in my kitchen. One of those steps has been banishing frozen pizza from my grocery list. And you know what? I don’t miss it.

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