City Bites

OPENING: Tennessy Willems, Hintonburg’s much-anticipated wood oven pizza place is on fire

Real wood oven pizza is here! Isn't she beautiful?

If you mention pizza to a Toronto foodie you’ll hear one of two names: Libretto or Terroni.

Well lucky for us, the pizza-maker who worked the ovens making those illustrious pies fell in love and moved to Ottawa. He is now tossing Neapolitan-inspired pizzas (round, thin crust, top ingredients, blistered by the fire) at Tennessy Willems, a brand new pizza place in Hintonburg that opened its doors today. Excited to see what all the buzz was about, I was among the first to stop in and check out the next contender for “real” pizza (sorry Ottawa-style pizza) in town.

I promise to write up a full report after I have a chance to sample more of the menu but for now I can tell you the only thing that really matters: the pizza really rocks! Forget wild boar sausage or duck confit, I went straight for the simple Margherita – sauce, cheese, fresh basil. It is the benchmark of any pizzeria, and this one just might be the best in the city. The crust is gloriously thin, beautifully blistered and vaguely infused with the smokiness of the fire. The soft blobs of melted mozzarella were an improvement over the shredded stuff and I loved the oven-crisped shredded leaves of fresh basil. But the real kicker at Tennessy Willems is the beguiling sauce. Rather than a thin smear of barely-there marinara, this assertive sauce is thick, bright and chunky with fire-roasted tomatoes and sweet onions—it’s also heaped on the Margherita making it the star of the show. As a bit of a pizza purist, I wanted to complain there was too much sauce, except that it was so delicious, I didn’t mind.

The black T-shirt-clad staff seemed a bit befuddled and under-prepared but I expect they will soon be up to speed on things like drink options and how to write up the bill. I also anticipate this downright adorable and much-needed pizzeria to be lined up out the door as soon as the word gets out that they are finally open.