Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Great Winnipeg Pizza Experiment

Since moving, I've had pretty much constant cravings for pizza like they used to make in the old country.  And by "country", I mean the city of Windsor.  It's one of those "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" situations.  My sibs and I didn't realize that Windsor truly has unique pizza until we saw a "Windsor-style Pizza" joint in London, Ontario.  Windsor-style?!  Wasn't pizza the same in any city?

My go-to for delivery, Capri Pizza.  Their motto is brutally honest, but still complimentary: "A penny more, a penny less... Capri Pizza is still the best!!"  It's definitely on my top 5 "best" list.  Image from Google Street View.
Once we thought about it, we realized, "OF COURSE not all pizzas are created equally!!"  We already knew that comparing "big chain" pizzas, local pizzeria products, and and homemade pizza was like comparing apples, oranges, and bananas.  Totally different, even if they are all fruit.  Erm, pizza.  You get it.  

Windsor is flush with fantastic local pizzeria chains.  Heck, our best man, Greg, will have his parents order him a batch of pizzas from his favourite joint when he comes to visit from Edmonton.  I think we can thank the huge influx of Italian immigrants to the region in the 1940s, my Nonna and Nonno among them.  How can you blame them fro trying to recreate the stone-baked, thinner crust pizza that they were used to?  By the same token, I don't think I can be blamed for wanting pizza like that to which I've become accustomed. 

My only problem?  Finding a pizzeria in Winnipeg that could deliver not only the right flavours and textures, but deliver right to my apartment door.  So like a good scientist, what did I do?  I designed The Great Winnipeg Pizza Experiment, which I've been working on most weekends since I arrived here at the beginning of June.

My favourite "sit-down" Windsor pizza restaurant and local chain, Armando's.  Almost a decade ago, the staff helped Hubs and I after we were in a car accident right out front.  Years later, Kiks and I went for a yummy late dinner.  Also good for a "date" with Hubs after we did a Christmas photo shoot... great atmosphere, with the same delicious pizza we get for delivery.  Perfect.  Image from Google Street View.
I've been relying on the Winnipeg Yellow Pages and recommendations from my friends/coworkers for leads on good pizzerias (or pizzerie, if you want to get super-Italian-grammar-picky).  I do have a set of rules, which are inspired by my Aunt Lisa and Uncle Dave.  They did a similar experiment in Windsor to find their favourite local chain; I thought I'd follow suit!

The Great Winnipeg Pizza Experiment (Honeybee et al, 2010)

Materials and Methods:
  1. Go through the phone book (roughly in alphabetical order) to find pizzerias (though more recently I've been going on recommendations).  Specifications:
    1. The restaurant must be a pizzeria first and foremost.  "Two-for-one" pizza places, and laundromat/fried chicken/variety store/pizza establishments are excluded.
    2. National pizza chains (Pizza Hut, Domino's, Pizza Pizza, Little Caesar's, Panago, Boston Pizza, etc) are excluded.  Local chains are permissible.
    3. The restaurant must have a location that delivers to my apartment (though I may relax this rule at one point).
  2. Order a medium pepperoni pizza with no "extras", so that variables would be minimized as much as possible.  If pressed for preferences, I just ask for "whatever's standard".
  3. Analyze crust, pepperoni, sauce, and cheese and score against standard Windsor style pizza.
I have to hand it to Winnipeg, they have NO shortage of good pizza.  I've tried six places at this point, some with very clever names: A Little Pizza Heaven, Academy Pizza Company, Café 22/Pizza Hotline, Gondola Pizza, Santa Lucia Pizza, and Sorrento's.   All have been quite tasty in their own right, but so far Sorrento's has hit the closest to home (with Santa Lucia a close second).  I have uncovered a few issues, however.  It seems like pizzerias in the River City prefer to put their pepperoni UNDER the cheese.  I know this isn't completely unheard of, but I like it up top where it can get nice and crispy.  Along those same lines, nobody seems to use shredded pepperoni.  Again, this lends itself to crispiness, and therefore deliciousness.  I know this is minor; I can always request both of these to customize my pizza.

BEHOLD!!  This is how it's done, Winnipeg. 
Pizza courtesy of Capri; financing courtesy of Mom and Dad
My other problem is my inability to accurately describe Windsor pizza.  I'd never really had to think about it before.  When I first brought The Experiment to the attention of my coworkers, I managed to say that it's baked in a stone oven, with just a tiny sprinkling of cornmeal so it doesn't stick.  The crust is medium-thin, with a good chewy texture to it.  Sauce is barely more than crushed tomatoes and garlic, cheese is real, stretchy mozzarella, and pepperoni is, again, shredded and placed on top.  I was met with relatively blank looks.  Apparently nothing in the 'Peg quite fits the bill.  

Luckily, this past weekend, I flew home for the first time to celebrate my sister's wedding with a beach barbecue, and to attend one of my best girlfriend's wedding showers.  We managed to get the family together (including Kiks and Hubs, as well as Tori and Graham who drove down from London just to see me), and ordered Capri pizza.  Combination of delicious pizza and being surrounded by my loved ones: priceless.  THAT was a little pizza heaven.

Hubs, live and in person (YAY!), chowing down on the "deluxe" variety of slice.  More for him, since I'm not a huge fan of olives, green peppers, or mushrooms.  I know, I'm a terrible Italian-Canadian.
The upside to the lovely pizza dinner (besides the obvious good times around the family table) was that I was able to smuggle a few pieces past Air Canada in my carry-on.  Well, "smuggle" isn't really accurate... it's not like there are laws against bringing pizza across provincial borders.  Plus, I imagine that the Windsor Airport security guards would hardly blame me for my odd luggage.  So with the coveted slices safely back in the 'Peg, I was able to feed my wonderful colleagues small pieces of the (albeit cold) contraband.  This confirmed my suspicion: Sorrento's pizza is quite close to Windsor style.  Another recommendation, courtesy of fellow genetic counsellor Shannon, was to try Casa Grande Pizzeria.  This would break Rule #4 of the experiment, as Casa Grande doesn't deliver, but it's definitely worth a shot.  Shannon has spoken very highly of this particular establishment in the past, so at the very least I feel confident that I'll enjoy a tasty pizza.

...but will it be as tasty as THIS?!  Note the bitemarks.  I annhiliated this, and I believe this plate was my second helping.  No wonder that airplane seatbelt felt snugger than usual...

 And so, the experiment continues.  I haven't ordered any this weekend (my weekly eating-out budget is earmarked for the next Eat Around The World-Winnipeg excursion), but I'll have to try Casa Grande in the near future.

Still envying Hubs his proximity to the fabulous Bullseye Pizza in our hometown,

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