One walk down any major street in downtown Toronto will tell you rather quickly that the city has no shortage of pizza joints. Whether it’s fast food in the vein of something like Pizza Nova and Pizzaiolo, or something a bit more formal like Pizzeria Libretto, Queen Margherita Pizza or Terroni, Torontoinains are never stuck when looking for somewhere to grab a good slice. And so, when it was announced this past summer that the King West area would be getting a new Italian restaurant called Masseria that would specialize in Neapolitan pizza, we were definitely intrigued.
Masseria introduces Torontonians to a modern casual style of dining, offering a new and exciting take on “classic southern Italian fare.” With “custom oven-baked pizzas, fresh signature salads and artisanal sandwiches, all made with carefully curated ingredients,” there’s certainly a lot to like about the restaurant’s menu. But what exactly is this “moden casual” style, you ask?
Well, the latter part of the term comes from the fact that Masseria offers the ease and speed of ordering and receiving your meal at a fast casual restaurant, while the premium ingredients and stylish design inside elevates the establishment above most of its competition. It’s a winning combination, too, as the atmosphere and vibe when you step inside strikes the perfect balance between being both a respectable, attractive restaurant and also a nice, casual spot to hang with some friends and share a pizza.
Headed up be Chef Rob LeClair, who previously worked with The McEwan Group, the focus at Masseria is clearly on the pizza, as they give customers the option to create their own from scratch or choose one of the 10 classics that are already on the menu – placing their order up at the quick-service counter/open kitchen before grabbing a seat at a communal table.
During our visit last week, we decided to try one of the restaurant’s classics and also make one of our own custom pizzas, not to mention we indulged in a couple of appetizers as well. Let’s take a look at what we had, shall we?
Marinated Olives: A small bowl of warm, well seasoned, fresh olives helped us kick off our meal on the right foot, providing a nice appetizer to start up our taste palette with. Simple and great for sharing, if you’re into olives, you can’t go wrong with the ones at Masseria.
Polpette: Continuing on with the appetizers, next up were three meatballs made up of pork, beef and veal, cooked in a delicious tomato sauce before being topped with a few pieces of parmesan cheese and some basil for good measure. While they were prepared perfectly, arriving at the table hot and soft on the inside, they were also a bit bland. The tomato sauce itself was tasty, but the meat left a lot to be desired, lacking any real seasoning or flavor that could be classified as memorable.
Lucano Pizza on Carbone Crust (with Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Red Onion, Sausage, Garlic, Chili, Oregano): One thing that Masseria offers that I quite honestly haven’t seen before is charcoal infused pizza dough. Though it looks burnt and overcooked, it’s actually anything but. The crust gets its color from vegetable carbone and Chef LeClair claims that this dough is a bit lighter and easier to digest. While we aren’t sure if it added much in terms of flavor, it certainly looked cool.
In regards to the pizza itself, the Lucano is no slouch. Packing a bit of heat and topped with some truly delicious sausage, this one’s a definite winner and should please those looking for something a little bolder in their pizza, with the garlic, chili and red onions combining for a strong fusion of flavors that’ll definitely stimulate your tastebuds.
Custom Pizza (with Pesto, Prosciutto Parma, Arugula, Caramel Onions, Hot Pepper, Asiago, Goat Cheese): On par with any of Toronto’s other top pie shops, our custom pizza was full of fresh ingredients and an exciting combination of tastes. We couldn’t get enough of this one and made sure to savor every last bite. From the creamy goat cheese to the salty proscuitto, and the thin yet sturdy crust to the brillaint pesto sauce, everything that topped this pizza had our mouths watering, leaving us genuinely upset once it was gone.
After walking away from Masseria more than impressed with our pizzas, we have to say that we think they’re onto something here with their interesting “moden casual” style and delicious pies. As mentioned before, the Toronto pizza scene is a crowded one, there’s no doubt about that. Yet, after a thoroughly enjoyable meal at one of King West’s newer restaurants, we’re confident in saying that Masseria should have no trouble carving out a spot for itself and finding its way into the hearts of pizza lovers all over the city.
All photos by Matt Joseph unless otherwise noted