I went on a first date with this guy I met on Hinge, let’s call him Kevin, after weeks of rain checking due to stomach and life complications. I was grateful for his patience. We had originally planned to go for falafel in Saint-Henri, at a very good restaurant, Sumac. But you order at the counter before sitting down, and the idea of having to figure out what I was having/if we were sharing/how we were dividing payment, before any proper interaction, gave me low key anxiety. Instead, I proposed Il Focolaio, a pizzeria I’d heard of years ago in a Youtube video and had yet to try. Their menu intrigued me, 77 pizzas, with topping combinations ranging from tofu and vegetables, to classic medleys of cured meats and cheeses. They have the options of wholegrain or cauliflower crust, vegan cheese, and fake meats, in addition to all the traditional toppings you can think of. What a woke pizzeria. Suffice to say, I wanted to go.
Kevin and I went on October 11th, a beautiful Fall day with clear skies and cool air, perfect pizza weather. I love going to restaurants, and though it’s essential that the food be delicious, there is so much more to the experience than what you eat. Located right in the heart of downtown, there seems to always be a line to get into Il Focolaio, but it moves quickly, as a truly impressive number of people are cozily squished into the smallish space. It was the perfect choice; hip, happening, casual, and convivial, though you should not eat here if you’re hard of hearing, or if you want a truly private conversation. On my second visit, my friend and I had a good chuckle hearing our neighbours decline dessert and opt instead for coffee, due to recent weight gain, and then later, we chatted with our other neighbours after passing along our chili flakes and oil.
Their crust is a little thicker than traditional Neapolitan dough, which I love, since it means that the first bite of the point is very much a knife and fork situation, but the rest of the slice can be picked up with your hands if desired. With great chew, perfect charring, and just the right amount of salt, this crust almost doesn’t need the chili oil as a dip for the non-saucy bits. FYI, their regular dough contains eggs and milk so if you’re vegan, the whole grain one is the way to go. I adore red sauce, and Il Focolaio’s has such a sweet concentrated tomato flavour, that on my second visit, I dispensed with the vegan cheese and instead opted for extra sauce. It was a great move. Though you can add/remove toppings from your pizza, it’s definitely better bang for your buck to stick with one of their many pre-set combinations. They all sound good, but my pizza of choice was the Fa Bene (#13); fresh garlic, mushrooms, spinach, and sliced black olives. The toppings were generous and it was delicious.
The waiters are bilingual, friendly, and when I went with my female friend on my second visit, just the right degree of flirtatious. It was the waiter who pointed out that the regular crust isn’t vegan (when I told him that I was debating between vegan cheese and no cheese). Despite the line out the door, we weren’t rushed at all, neither to order nor to pay, but when we were ready, so too was our server.
Needless to say, Kevin did not stick around, but this pizzeria will be in my life for the foreseeable future, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t wait to go back a third time and do a 50/50 salad and pizza plate, because those looked awesome, or try a calzones or sub, and finally get a dessert (weight gain be dammed).
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