What’s on the menu at Renaissance Pizza, a new pizzeria in the west end for Detroit-style pies
The thick-crust pizzas are topped with things like pepperoni and sausage, but also duck confit and tandoori paneer
Name: Renaissance Pizza
Contact: 809 Dundas St. W., renaissancepizza.ca, @renaissancepizzato
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Chef-owners: John Rabideau and Harvey Gill
Accessibility: Fully accessible
Niagara-born high school buddies John Rabideau and Harvey Gill were not making any (literal) dough when they reconnected as adults in in 2015. “I owned a construction business with my brother and Harvey was an accountant, but we both grew up in families that worshiped food,” says Rabideau, “When we ran into each other at a party in Toronto, we hit it off yet again. In 2019, we moved in together.”
When the pandemic hit, the roommates were suddenly left with a lot of time on their hands. Gill had just left his accounting job to open a franchise of a Greek restaurant chain but was blocked by lockdowns, and Rabideau’s construction business was thwarted because of supply issues. So, the two turned to a mutual hobby—pizza-making—to quell their boredom. “Harvey comes from an Indian family obsessed with flavours,” says Rabideau, “And my dad worked at General Motors but always dreamt of opening a pizzeria. I kid you not, he made a different pizza every single day as a side dish.”
The two friends began to nerd out on pizza forums. They tested and retested their crust-to-sauce-to-topping ratio, first on each other, then on their friends, until they perfected it. “We love Detroit-style pizza and we lived too far from Descendant,” says Rabideau. When all was said and done, they realized what they were doing was marketable. Fast forward a couple of years and now the hardworking friends sit at the helm of Renaissance Pizza (named for GM’s headquarters in Detroit), a takeout spot that turns out thick-crust pizza pies with things like pepperoni but also tandoori paneer.
A selection of red, tomato sauce–topped pies and white, tomato-free ones, all available by the slice or whole pie. Whether one chooses to sauce or not to sauce, the crust (which is sauced after it comes out of the oven) maintains its crispiness. “We spent many hours on the pizza forums to figure out what kind of tomatoes to use and where the ones with the least amount of moisture grow,” says Gill. It turns out California-grown tomatoes did the trick.
A standard roster of soft drinks plus a premium selection of local beverages, like Sapsucker’s maple-sweetened sparkling water and some zero-proof beer from Bellwoods Brewery. A liquor license is in the works and will be ready for next year, at which point the menu will list spirits and cans of local beer.
As sparse and functional as a pizza box, there are a few tables by the window which looks out to Palmerston Street. Come summer, Gill and Rabideau plan introduce a 30-seat patio in front but for now, the two are content without adding any other bells or whistles. They don’t need them—the proof is in the pizza.