Pizza has made its way to Ate by Ate! After 400+ posts, the great big pizza pie is finally getting some serious love and attention! I love pizza (I only know of 2 or 3 people who actually don’t – the horror!) but you know how it is: ordering pizza from your local pizzeria takeout joint and having your hot and fresh pizza out of the cardboard box doesn’t really make for the most stellar photography. Unless you’re out to wine and dine, pizza is generally consumed in the comforts of your school cafeteria, elementary school day pizza day lunches, at home in your PJs in front of the tv, or among friends at a movie and games night pizza party.
Pizza is one of those foods that I just don’t order when I’m dining out and it’s not because I don’t want to. I definitely do, but I have to be honest, the prices are a deterrent. I know the ingredients and toppings are and can be stellar, but when a pie meant for an individual person costs $16, I cringe. There are many pizzas around the city I’d love to try, and maybe I will someday, but for now I’d much rather either make my own (making pizza dough and my own pizza creation is something I’ve always wanted to try!), or else it’s something I have to think long and hard about if it isn’t the variety delivered in a cardboard box.
Enter Il Fornello. This Italian eatery serves up a menu of linguine, spaghettini, ricotta ravioli, gnocchi, antipasti, appetizers, and salads (insalata) with fresh mozzarella and ricotta di bufala, veal fettucine, chicken parmigiana, and a host of wood-fired, thin crust pizzas. The menu is comprised of so many foods I love. Pasta? Check. Fresh mozzarella? Check. Pizza? Check, check, and check! And yet it has taken me so long to sit down to a meal here! It’s not the type of place my family would necessarily go to (remember, my dad does not feel the love for pasta) and for whatever reason, the opportunity to enjoy a meal here has evaded me all this time.
I’ve wistfully passed by the Il Fornello by Harbourfront several times, daydreaming of a romantic night out with my boyfriend by the waterfront. I’ve walked by the Il Fornello on King St. and Yonge & St. Clair more times than I can count and till this day, I’ve mentally kicked myself for missing out on their summer strawberry menu almost two years at Bayview Village. It’s taken a long time, but I can say with satisfaction that I’ve finally made it to the Italian emporium that is Il Fornello and I couldn’t have picked a better time because their entire menu of pizzas are currently on promotion!
For the month of January and February, ALL pizzas are priced at $10 (regularly priced at $11-$16 depending on location and menu selection) ALL day and EVERY day at the Yonge & St. Clair location! The Yonge & St. Clair location is the one I’ve wanted to visit for a long time now and I’m so happy that I have. It’s beautiful inside. Clean, sleek, and modern with a warm and comforting atmosphere, it’s a lovely space and I totally fell in love with the wood-firing oven burning hot in plain view from the main dining area! Depending on where you’re seated, you have a clear view of the kitchen staff popping pizzas in and out of that oven and preparing it right before your eyes. I’m a huge fan of exposed restaurant kitchens either in its entirety or a portion. Like the concept behind The Depanneur, it makes the relationship between chef and patron more accessible and the process of cooking more transparent.
At 5 other locations in and around Toronto and the GTA, pizzas are included in this price fixe promotion every TUESDAY for the months of January and Febraury, excluding Valentine’s. These 5 locations include the Beaches location, the Danforth, Bayview Village, Oakville, and Richmond Hill. Pizzas are about 10 inches in diameter and pies are sliced into quadrants (don’t be confused by the 2 slices on my plate; my other half and I shared so the other two were on his!). The menu selection and price range varies a little at each location, but there are at least 12 different pizza varieties to choose from with both meat and vegetarian options.
Il Fornello’s meat pizzas contain a mix of proscuitto, grilled chicken, pepperoni, spicy salami, and Italian fennel sausage while the vegetarian pies incorporate a mix of arugula, peppers, mushrooms, basil, tomatoes, nuts, pears, tomatoes, and plenty of fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola, and scamorza cheeses. Vegetarian options include the Nove (tomato sauce, mozzarella, green peppers, mushrooms, and onions), the Gorgonzola (gorgonzola, pears, caramelized onions, walnuts, and arugula), the Margherita (tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil), the Pesto e Mozzarella Fresca (pesto, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and basil), the Pizza di Bufala (extra virgin olive oil, mozzarella di bufala, tomato sauce, and basil) and the Funghi with cremini, portobello, and oyster mushrooms, scamorza cheese, roasted fennel seed, and arugula.
I had a hard time deciding (nothing makes my heart sing like fresh mozzarella di bufala or buffalo mozzarella at an Italian place – bring on the caprese!), but I love mushrooms so much that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have their Funghi pizza, especially when it included arugula. Aside from basil, pesto, and cheese of all sorts, my ultimate favourite type of pizza is mushroom pizza. Plain old mushroom pizza with lots of cheese. And maybe some peppers. And lots of cracked black pepper. Okay, now I’m just getting carried away.
Back to the Funghi. I went nuts over this pizza. The pizza crust was to die for. Thin and crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and completely able to hold its own. You know how some pizza crusts are dry and taxing to eat? Not this crust. You could dip it in sauce, sure, but it’s not necessary at all. And the cheese and mushrooms. OH.MY.GOD. So juicy and smoky and tender and cheesy and flavourful and savoury. And did I mention mouthwateringly delicious and foodgasmic?
The combination of smoky portobello with slightly sweet oyster and buttery cremini, along with peppery, leafy arugula with lots of cracked black pepper and drizzled olive oil (courtesy of the complementary bread basket we had with our meal) was heavenly. The scamorza cheese, similar to mozzarella, was bolder in flavour than mozzarella and it paired beautiful with the savouriness of the mushrooms. There were so many levels of flavour and it was just a joy to eat.
There’s still plenty of time to take advantage of Il Fornello’s price fixe pizza event (until the end of February), so if you haven’t already, definitely swing by and enjoy a delicious pizza pie! I’m considering making another trip myself.
Il Fornello at Yonge & St. Clair is located at 1560 Yonge Street, north of St. Clair Ave. at the corner of Yonge and Delisle. This location is open for lunch and dinner from Monday-Friday at 11:30am and on the weekends, only for dinner (5pm on Saturday and 4pm on Sunday). Il Fornello’s pizza price fixe event will be in effect until the end of February. The Italian eatery has a number of locations in and around Toronto and the GTA. Their menu, locations, and promotions can be viewed on their website here.