Saturday, June 4, 2011

Restaurant Review: Gerrard Pizza and Spaghetti House

This could just be another review about a gem that has been around for just over 40 years but that would be fairly easy to write and not very enlightening.  Instead, this place brings out the uneasiness of using a short form review of authenticity.  So, let's start with a little review of what is here and hopefully, do away with the problem of real.

The restaurant is located on Danforth and not on Gerrard as the name would suggest.  This place was originally located on a bustling section of Gerrard Street and moved north to where the action moved to the new subway line.  The business opened in 1967 when the definition of Italian pizza was something different.  The Danforth subway line was finishing up construction for its official opening the next year.

The decor is not kitsch or even arriving at kitsch but rather a good reflection of restaurant culture around that time.  The plastic overlays on the table remind me of gingham and the walls are a story of place.  It shows a family that is proud of where it came from and a declaration of ethnicity that can only come from immigrants or children of immigrants who wish to regain ethnicity.  This type of genuineness of trying to convey their history with what was available later became the marketing tools of Olive Garden, East Side Mario's and countless pizza joints.   This one does conjure up the notion of a bistro that is set in Italy but in a really odd way.  It reminds me of a small restaurant that I went to in Florence set beside a vineyard.

The full menu is available on Facebook.  We went with our kids and ordered three pizzas and two salads along with a family bottle of Orangina.  I loved this touch that spoke to the family specials that you can get from chains but was distinctly European.  Maybe this is where the big chains got their ideas?  Pizza Pizza started in 1967.  We had a seafood pizza, sausage pizza and mushroom pizza with a radicchio salad and a spring mix with nuts salad.

These pies are not the pies of Florence or the trendy traditional pies.  All of these things were made with love.  They were recipes that are designed to best recreate meals from the homeland with ingredients from the new country.  For example, the funghi are the standard Darlington Whites rather than the mixed wild mushrooms of Italy or even Canada.  I am not sure that matters in terms of "authentic".

Over the ensuing forty years as we, the consumers grew up with these North American interpretations of Italian food (oooh exotic) and made them our own; we now treat these places as the authentic and real.  These are good pizzas.  This place has great value for money.  Our family ate for around eighty dollars.  Is it authentic Italian pizza or even authentic something?  I am not interested in that question or that word in this case.  A good Italian cook is making good pies that remind me of family restaurants that existed in the '80s.  Those restaurants became popular for a reason.  Many of the chains and restaurants also failed due to poor care in quality and amping up the kitsch factor and only focusing on making money.  Gerrard Pizza did not do that.  It is genuine and as Bono put it  "Even better than the real thing".

Gerrard Spaghetti & Pizza on Urbanspoon

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