Last summer, I gave up on pizza. There was no single spark, no notably abominable experience. It was the sameness that got me: Everywhere, the same thin, blistered crusts, with the same artfully-placed basil leaves, the same San Marzano-based tomato sauce, the same dutifully authentic toppings. Sure, they were great, but a good 10 years into this city’s thin-crust pizza boom, I’d had enough, and you could keep your chaste little mozzarella di bufala bits. I missed the time before we all became pizza connoisseurs. I missed the smell and the heft and the singularly satisfying taste of the pizzas from before the Neapolitan craze.
In the space of a couple decades, Toronto, like much of North America, has abandoned the deep-cheesy, meat-and-mushroom, sauce-and-vegetable-freighted ideal of the mom and pop neighbourhood pizza parlour. The freezer aisle is partly to blame, with its cut-rate rising crust pizzas, as are Pizza Pizza and Pizza Nova and all the other sad-sack chains.
Roman and Neapolitan pizzas came along just in time. They were new and different and made with good ingredients, and, thanks to their 900-degree wood-fired ovens, seemingly immune to competitive threats. I fell as hard as anybody. But I’ve missed soft, sweet crusts and molten Monterey Jack mixed with brick mozzarella, spread as thick as a mid-winter quilt.
Chris Getchell learned the trade at Pizzeria Libretto and North of Brooklyn, two of the best of the thin-crust bunch, but when it came time to go out on his own, he wanted to do something new. The 22-seat Leslieville shop he opened last summer, called Descendant Detroit Style Pizza, is the best cure I know for pizza ennui.
Detroit-style pizza is descended from Sicilian pizza: It’s square instead of round, and traditionally baked in deep, heavy-gauge blue-steel pans that aren’t made for the pizza industry but for holding factory parts. Once the dough’s pressed into the pans and left to rise, the cheese goes on: mountains of mozzarella and brick cheese (it’s a lot like Monterey Jack), or smoked Southern Italian scamorza, depending on the pie.
As the pans superheat, the cheese toasts and crisps into the crusts around the pans’ edges, so that Mr. Getchell’s pizzas crunch when you bite in. After the crunch, they yield like gooey grilled cheese.
All of that is merely the foundation for his toppings, and Descendant’s toppings, sourced from superb local butchers and salumerie, are quite possibly the best I’ve had. For the pizza called “soppressata marmalade,” Mr. Getchell’s kitchen cooks down cubes of Dolce Lucano sausage with garlic, shallots, sherry vinegar and maple syrup, and then pulses it all into a meat-based jam. That jam is piled onto the cheese-covered crust, along with Calabrian chilies and spiced honey.
His superb “homenaje,” an homage to one of the pies at Roberta’s, in Brooklyn, comes mounded with fresh chorizo from Olliffe Butcher Shop, as well as punchy roasted jalapenos, lime-pickled onions, sour cream and cilantro sprigs.
His double-pepperoni pizza lays rounds of excellent sausage next to the crust, below the cheese, as well as on top; the upper layer curls and crisps in the heat and fills with bubbling pepperoni fat. After baking, the pizza’s topped with the kitchen’s remarkably fresh-tasting tomato sauce. That sauce is never cooked; Mr. Getchell merely brings crushed tomatoes and seasoning to temperature in a bain marie.
With every bite, the tart-sour tomato undercurrents in that unsimmered sauce temper the richness of the meat and the cheese. There is a margherita, too, but freed from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana–style culinary Calvinism; it’s thicker and gooier and infinitely more satisfying than a whole stack of properly authentic pies.
The service is quick and cheerful, and a small pie is enough for a couple of moderate appetites. The room fills quickly at dinnertime with dine-in patrons and a steady stream of take-out trade.
Lately, on the restaurant’s Instagram, another pizza appeared, thanks to Descendant cooks Dinesh Kanbiah and Kishan Jayakumar. It’s the standard crust, but filled with take-out kottu roti, the Tamil-style spice, bread and curry-based street food. They add cilantro sour cream after baking, as well as slivered green onions, Calabrian chilies and mango chutney, with its tart, electric sours. I haven’t tried it but I am dying to. Nobody does that pizza in Naples, I’m pretty sure.
Original article here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/restaurant-reviews/descendant-and-ramen-isshin-detroit-style-pizza-with-heft-and-some-of-the-best-noodles-in-town/article28093991/