On a recent summer lazy afternoon Don and I were sorting through foodiePrints’ enormous photo archives when we came across one, containing photos of thin crust pizzas. Just seeing those photos brought a smile to my face. I really enjoy eating thin crust pizzas because every bite is accompanied with a satisfying “crunch.” And luckily for me, Don “delights” (his word) in pizza too.
I wasn’t always a fan of pizza. In fact, after shying away from it for more than a decade, I’ve only started to enjoy eating it again. As a child, my parents bought pizzas from Loeb (now Metro). The pizzas were called “Awesome Dude” back in the 90s. Then, there were school pizza orders from Little Caesars and Pizza Pizza. Pizza Hut was rare as there were no Kanata location and I only ate Domino’s with my cousins in Vancouver. I vaguely remember trying the personal sized pizzas from McDonald’s, forgettable McPizzas…
I suppose after eating so much fast food pizza, I grew tired of it and didn’t really eat it again until I was in university. Even then, I ate pizza sparingly.
Earlier this spring, I wrote about my favourite thin crust pizza place at the Kanata Centrum mall, Tomaso (450 Kanata Avenue). However, as I’m not in the west end all that often, I needed to find something a little closer to home. And I found just the eateries last summer when Paola St-Georges of C’est Bon Cooking called, inviting me and Don to join her on a food tour in Little Italy.
Though Ottawa may not be a grand metropolitan city, we are blessed to have many culinary-endowed neighbourhoods. Take a relaxing stroll up and down Preston Street and around the side streets on a breezy Saturday summer afternoon. The restaurants and shops are simply buzzing with people and there is always a delicious smell in the air.
That day, the food tour dropped by numerous shops, cafes (including Pasticceria Geletaria Italiana), and restaurants, with samples to try at every stop, including pasta, cheeses, sausage, chocolate, and bakery. However, as this post is about thin crust pizza, two stops offered samples. The first was Trattoria Caffe Italia (254 Preston St.)
Trattoria Caffe Italia
This was my first time at Caffe Italia, which has been serving patrons since 1981. And, stepping into a dimly lit, but elegant restaurant with a laid back feel, we were greeted warmly owner Dominic Carrozza and platters of thin, crisp, and freshly baked pizza.
A delicious pizza, topped with cheese, fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, yellow peppers, and peperoni with grains of cornmeal underneath.
Incidentally, Dominic’s sister Maria owns and operates La Roma (430 Preston Street) down the street on Preston.
The second was Pub Italia.
Pub Italia (434 1/2 Preston St) is an Italian-Irish bar best known for its extensive beer offer with beers from around the world. On every table, patrons can find a Beer Bible listing all their beers.
Before we could sit down and rest our feet, we were given a tour of the pub itself.
Dark with pseudo-religious wood finishings, paintings and stained glass windows, Don and I felt like we entered another world.
When you visit, look closely at the paintings. The likenesses are borrowed from everyone who has ever worked at Pub Italia. In fact, the “Lady of Shallot” bares a close resemblance to Joe’s wife.
Interestingly, all of the renovations and interior decorating is done in-house, mostly by Joe himself.
After the tour, we sat down to some refreshments in a room decorated with beer bottles!
Several tour participants opted for some local beer to go with the pizzas.
Among the local beers at Pub Italia is Lugtread from Beau’s.
After sampling both pizzas, my favourite came from Trattoria Caffe Italia.
Throughout the summer, I’ll be out looking for more thin crust pizzas to try. If you have any suggestions, let me know!
Aside: At Caffe Italia, we were also served samples of delicious sausage, made from pork shoulder, fennel seed, salt, and black pepper.
Savoury and warm, but not spicy, they were made at Luciano’s (106 Preston Street) according to a Carrozza family recipe.
Trattoria Caffe Italia
254 Preston Street
434 1/2 Preston Street
Tags: culinary tourism, food tour, Little Italy, pizza, thin crust pizza