Readers will know that this is the summer we build an oven at my family’s cottage that is designed to cook, among other things, pizza. Hopefully, this is enough to solidly establish my credibility as someone who takes pizza seriously. Either way, I like eating pizza and was pleased to hear of a new authentic pizza joint, Queen Margherita’s Pizza (or just QMP) that has opened in the East end.
On a recent visit with two friends we kept to the heart of the menu and each ordered a pizza. The other option is the twenty-five dollar prix fixe menu which created a shit-storm of controversy on Chowhound (what else is Chowhound good for?) when QMP opened and some diners were informed that the prix fixe was mandatory. Not so anymore but as far as I could tell pizzas are the only a la carte option. I didn’t see any of the desserts but judging by the frisee salad that arrived at our neighbours’ table (and the disappointed look on their face) sticking with pizza is probably the right choice.
Unlike their cross-town rivals QMP takes reservations and even offers the option to make a booking through their web site. Whenever I have eaten at Libretto I walked into a seat but it was at odd hours (not Thursday through Saturday between seven and ten) but I have heard enough horror stories from reputable sources to believe that the no-reservations policy is an issue. Also, I can see when reservations are highly desirable: parties larger than four, if you’re paying a babysitter, when it’s snowing, a multi-generational crowd with whom pre-dinner tequila at Reposado won’t fly. I understand how taking reservations amounts to increased menu prices but sometimes we want to know a table is waiting for us.
In a half-full dining room the pizzas at QMP come out at lightning speed. A very thin crust combined with the 700°F heat of an artisan oven makes for fast pizza. Fast enough that couples or groups wanting to split and share more than one pie might be better off ordering in sequence.
The problem is that an under three-minute cook time means that there is a razor-thin margin for error. One of our table’s three pies suffered from a bad case of toppping-dumping point sag (a slice held by the crust should stay flat and not droop) while another was just right. The bottom of the three crusts were all a light golden base with the appropriate amount of dark brown “leopard spots”. Top blistering met my standards but was not quite up to what my fellow diners wanted.
Not pre-cooking toppings is another hallmark of the wood-fired pizza. This works excellently for salami, sausage and black olives but standard-issue creminis are glaring in their bland whiteness on the Rumolo. Both the Rocco and Diavolo are good combinations of spicy meat and good fior di latte mozzarella.
At seven bucks a bottle the imported Castello beer seems overpriced. A glass of the house red for the same feels much more reasonable but when visiting an establishment dominated by its wood-fired oven during a heat wave I need something cooler. Fellow diners beware: The surly waiter chooses his t-shirt based on gross margin not best value or most delicious beer.
A bit too much sag, a little under done; these are minor complaints. QMP is solidly on the podium for Toronto’s best pizza. I have heard good things but not had the chance to try Buddha Pie and while Libretto has better appetizers and drinks the main event is a much tighter race.
Queen Margherita’s Pizza: 1402 Queen St. E Unit 8; 416-466-6555; firstname.lastname@example.org; takeout, no delivery