by Malcolm Jolley
With fixed plastic seats and trays and Formica tables, it’s not going to win any design awards, but Pizza Pide, the Turkish “pizza” restaurant at Gerrard and Pape, housed in what was an old (2-4-1?) pizza by the slice and take-out joint, consistently gets written about the Toronto fooderattis every year. Usually it’s one of these “rare find” pieces, not in the least unlike this one. In fact I have written about Pizza Pide before, and will likely again because it’s really, very good. And, as far as I know, there’s nothing else like it in the old city of Toronto.
The menu at Pizza Pide is extensive, with 20+ baked flat bread with toppings items. I stick to #1, the pide lahmacun for $6.99. Lahmacun translates roughly as ground meat on bread (or so says Wikipedia). In this case it’s super finely minced beef with bits of oinion and bell pepper along with Turkish herbs and spices spread loosely across a super thin flatbread crust that manages, somehow, to retain a millimeter thin centre of chewiness in between razor thin, but crisp crust. This is good.
And it gets better, because with one’s order comes the garnish, or when one folds it (as one will inevitably do), the filling! Sweet white onion, tomato wedges, vinegary hot pepper, lemon to squeeze over and curly parsley. I don’t know if it’s the depth of the onion, the acidic lift of the lemon juice or the chlorophyll-herbaciousness of the parsley, but the pide sings in the mouth. (I generally eschew the tomato, unless it looks super-ripe in late summer.) There are also re-purposed sugar shakers of Aleppo pepper to sprinkle on the pide to add a note of fire, as well as the pickled green chillies that are mild enough to taste of vinegar and brine as much heat, adding to the acid of the lemon juice to balance the savoury meat and sweet starch of the crust. In fact, the juxtaposition of the warm chewy flat bread and with the umami rush of minced, spiced crumbs of meat against the super-fresh crunch of onion, parsley and lemon zing makes me wonder why the Neapolitans ever bothered with tomato sauce and cheese (for only two seconds before coming to my senses, of course – pace, Terroni et al). Anyway, these Turks know how to use a hot oven.
There are other things on the menu. Interesting looking things, some of them involving a fried egg on top – always an encouraging sign of l’esprit de corps gastromonique. On my most recent visit, my colleague Kylie Meyermann and I also gave a go at #18, which is a kind of sampler thing. Unlike the lahmacun, this pide is more of a “boat” folded pastry and features everything with a lot salty cheese – slightly sweet but spiced sausages, chicken breast slices, slices of “roasted lamb” and, finally at the ends we found a delicious spinach and finely minced beef combo. All fine, enough. But, we both decided next time we’d stick with the lahmacun. Maybe ask for an extra wedge of lemon or two as well.
Pizza Pide’s website is www.pizzapide.ca