|Location||545 King Street West|
|Dinner for two with drinks||$80|
With four locations, as well as an always-steady takeout and delivery business, Pizzeria Libretto is a Toronto institution where pie lovers unite. The jam-packed restaurant is evidence that the chain doesn’t dish up just any ordinary dough.
Chef Rocco Agostino’s growing brand is unique because it’s one of the few places in Toronto with a certification from the esteemed Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana (AVPN). Translation: authentic Neapolitan pizza endorsed by the Italian government and the European Union. AVPN represents some of the oldest pizza-making families. It’s not seal of approval is not to be taken lightly.
Having been to Libretto’s other locations, I was excited to check out the joint’s newest outpost on King Street West for a friend’s birthday party.
Walking to this Libretto location was oddly familiar, with the same wooden tables and glossy red accents. The vibe was hip and unpretentious. The cozy space had a narrow bar with high tops and a sit-down area with about 40 tables. Servers were casually dressed in black tees and jeans. The good looking crew didn’t require a uniform with plunging necklines. I immediately noticed that they were pros at not only turning tables at breakneck speed, but also making you feel like a family member at Nonna’s kitchen table.
Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to the Libretto menu. There are seven cocktails listed and no more than 30 varieties of Canadian and Italian wines. The cocktails I sipped on throughout the evening—a Negroni ($12) and an Aperol Spritz ($12)—were simplement parfait.
Libretto doesn’t veer from tradition when it comes to the menu fixture, pizza. Divided into rossa (red) and bianca (white), most pizzas were traditional combinations of fresh ingredients: house-made sausage, woodland mushrooms, gooey cheese and fragrant basil. Perhaps the most opulent pizza was the Duck Confit (more about that soon…). Pizzas ranged in price from $13 to $18. There was an option to have spelt crust for an additional $2. A range of Italian classics, such as meatballs, calamari and gnocchi, made an appearance on the menu as well. Libretto has capitalized on hungry office workers with its three-course weekday lunch prix fixe menu for a mere $16.
What I enjoyed most about this location was the dedicated wood oven stove for gluten-free pizzas, which means that people with Celiac or gluten sensitivity don’t have to stress about cross-contamination that can happen at other restaurants.
I ordered a gluten-free Duck Confit pizza ($18 plus $4 extra for gluten-free crust). Ça alors! Days later, I’m still thinking about it. I had a hard time believing that the dough was gluten-free and had to double-check with the server, who assured me it was. Apparently, Agostino spent many sleepless nights perfecting the recipe. The pizza, stretched to a precise 35-centimeter diameter that would make the Italian government proud, arrived in all its glory. The crust was perfectly blistered and lightly charred. Although I’m a classy mademoiselle, I decided to forgo my knife and fork so I could test the elasticity. The dough was thinnest in its centre—making it best for picking and folding. Although the meagre sprinkling of duck was très dry, the combination of summery sweetness from roasted bosc pear slices, savoury notes from the fried rosemary and gooey mozzarella cheese made the dehydrated duck forgivable.
I also tried the Roasted Cremini Mushroom pizza ($18)—waistband-expanding goodness that will leave you wanting more. The funghi in question were quartered creminis, perfectly seasoned with thyme, rosemary, and the right dose of brown butter. Like almost all the toppings, the mushrooms were beautifully cooked with a faint insinuation of wood oven smoke. The un-rubbery combination of cheeses— mozzarella di bufala, gorgonzola, and pecorino—was perfection in my mouth.
Both pizzas arrived piping hot (there’s a zero per cent chance you’d bite into cardboard-like crust at any Libretto location). That’s what I love about this joint—it’s consistent. I had previously tried almost all of the salads. A standout was Rocco’s Salad ($13) with crispy egg, butternut squash, beets, Brussels sprouts, pine nuts, crispy prosciutto and ricotta salata. If you’re not in the mood for a carb-heavy meal, it’s a much lighter option that was still satisfying. For a tasty shareable starter, the gnocchi ($8) is a good option as well. But my point is…go for the ’za.
Like any pizza joint, success begins with a delicious product. The dough has to be spot-on. The toppings must be the perfect combination of flavours and textures that please the palate in a familiar way. Pourquoi mess with a good thing? Libretto understands this philosophy wholeheartedly and upholds strict standards. Whether you visit Pizzeria Libretto for a casual Tinder date or for a family dinner with picky kids in tow, the laid-back vibe and delicious food work equally well—at a price that won’t break the bank.
Mme M. xoxo
La rubrique de Madame Marie
1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
2 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
3 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
4 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
5 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.