Pizzeria Defina, the latest spot to open on Roncesvalles, was for a long time home to take-out joint Cosa Pizza. When Roksolana Curkowskyj, a graduate of Ryerson’s fashion design program, purchased the property, she was planning to turn it into a bridal studio. But after exploring the space’s potential (including the giant pizza oven that came with it), Roksolana decided to apply her less-is-more design philosophy to pizzas rather than wedding gowns.
Curkowskyj headed to California to learn Neapolitan-style pizza from the best: 10-time world pizza champ Tony Gemignani. Her pies are available in either the traditional Neapolitan style or in the thinner Roma version; deep-fried and “salad” options are also offered. Curkowskyj isn’t one to shy away from experimentation: the Roncy pizza plays up the area’s Polish population, with potatoes, pancetta and asiago, and plans for a California-style breakfast pie are in the works.
Curkowskyj’s pizzas use local and organic ingredients, in addition to the essential Caputo flour imported from Naples. A pesto version comes with grilled chicken, calabrese peppers, fior di latte and fresh goat cheese ($16). The eccentric buffalo mozzarella “pizza salad” comes with a mound of cheese nestled between two pieces of bread with heaps of cherry tomatoes, all of it drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil ($14).
Exposed brick walls and wide-planed wooden floors give the joint a homey feel. Much of the woodwork was done by Curkowskyj’s sons, who used hemlock reclaimed from the building to make the bar and wine rack, as well as many of the tables. Potted plants and brightly hued jarred goods—such as Bumpercrop’s vanilla rhubarb ($13)—make for colourful accents. Local artist Christian Aldo was invited to create two murals, one behind the bar and the other next to the ubiquitous oven. Curkowskyj must be doing something right—Defina is already packed with couples and young families by 6 p.m.
Pizzeria Defina, 320 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-534-4414, pizzeriadefina.com