Introducing: Via Mercanti, Kensington’s new Neapolitan-style pizza parlour from a pair of Queen Margherita exiles

Introducing: Via Mercanti, Kensington’s new Neapolitan-style pizza parlour from a pair of Queen Margherita exiles

Massimo Di Lascio making a pizza (Image: Caroline Aksich)

For those tired of Terroni’s traditionalism, Libretto’s lineups and the long ride on the 501 out to Queen Margherita, there’s a new, laid-back Neapolitan-style pizza operation in town: Via Mercanti. The latest addition to Kensington Market is helmed by two Sicilian expats, Romolo Salvati and Massimo Di Lascio, who both have some serious pizza pedigree—they left the Queen Margherita only two months ago to set up shop in the recently shuttered Back Alley Woodfire BBQ and Grill, where Salvati was once the chef. Their new venture reflects both of their passions: pizza and coffee.

The duo met back in Salerno over 10 years ago. Salvati ran an espresso bar adjacent to Di Lascio’s pizzeria on Mercanti Street (Di Lascio has more than a quarter century of pizzaioloing behind him). “Mercanti” being Italian for “market,” “merchants,” the pair decided the name was perfect to represent their Italian past and their Kensington present. This unassuming pizzeria may not have the now-standard haute-rustic feel of so many new restaurants in Toronto, but it’s not without its charms. The window display consists of an Italian flag–bedecked soccer ball, cans of Italian-imported tomatoes and bags of flour. Inside, there’s a concrete wraparound bar, simple oak tables, recessed pot lighting and a selection of espresso-based paintings by Toronto artist Francesco Gallé. Oh, and staying true to the owners’ Italian roots, there’s also a 50-inch TV for football matches.

Tubs of freshly made campanelle (a type of pasta named after little bells) sit on the counter, ready to be used in scarpariello: a simple dish of campanelle, a Salerno-style tomato sauce and a tuft of finely chopped basil ($14). Of course, the main attraction is the pies. Behind the glass display of fresh pizza-ready ingredients, it seems like the entire ex–Queen Margherita staff is busy cooking. Dough is quickly pulled and then dressed with a simple tomato sauce base, fior di latte (sourced from Woodbridge) and toppings like ham, mushrooms and sun-dried Italian black olives (which together make a capricciosa, $13). Next, the pizzaiolo slides the whole thing onto a pizza shovel and into one of the two brick ovens for 60 to 85 seconds. The eponymous house pizza ($16) is a (probably unholy) mashup of a calzone and a traditional pizza. This Frankenstein of a pie starts with a white pizza base (buffalo ricotta, ham, salami and a mushroom medley) that’s topped with an entire margherita pizza—we’re assuming those without caveman appetites need not apply.

Pizzeria Via Mercanti, 188 Augusta Ave., 647-34306647