Don’t even say the L word—“Libretto”—to John Chetti, co-owner of Queen Margherita Pizza, Toronto’s latest wood-oven pizza joint. “We’ve got nothing to do with them. Sure, one of my cooks worked there, but that’s it.”
“Anyway, we’ve got a better oven,” says chef Romolo Salvati, who has been spinning dough for 20 years, most recently at Back Alley Grill. It’s a 6,000-pound Neapolitan oven made of mortar and stone that had to be hauled into the restaurant by crane. Hovering at 845˚F, the oven scorches one pie after another in a mere 90 seconds. “Libretto’s is good, but ours is better,” he says.
“And,” adds Chetti, “we do something no one else in the pizza business does. We have a new menu every day, and everything comes in fresh daily. What we don’t use is picked up by Second Harvest.” The set menu ($25) consists of three courses—choice of starter, choice of pizza, small salad—and has set off an ongoing debate on Chowhound, with some users claiming that pizza should be simple and others racing to defend QMP’s honour. Pizza can be ordered on its own for $14 to $17.
Perched at the end of Leslieville, at the edge of that no man’s land between Greenwood and the Beach, QMP has resurrected the seemingly cursed space above Red Rocket Coffee. “It’s been a church, noodle factory, yoga studio and event space—everything but successful,” says Chetti, a real estate developer who fell hard for the space. High ceilings, factory windows, worn wooden floors, ancient brick and a view of the TTC’s Russell Yard. He took one look and, he says, “It was game over.”
“This area is the next Yonge and Eglinton,” claims Chetti. “There are a lot of people here who know their wine and know good food.” Indeed, the place has been open for less than two weeks and is already packed with customers from near and far. Groups of pretty young things in miniskirts and sequins, much too young to dig the unobtrusive ’70s soundtrack, have made the trip from Woodbridge and share the bustling room with locals in anoraks and jeans. One diner admits, “This is my fourth visit in nine days.”
Queen Margherita Pizza, 1402 Queen St. E., 416-466-6555, queenmargheritapizza.ca.