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Eat & Drink

After Fire, Massimo's To Reopen on Queen

Posted by Rick McGinnis / September 9, 2009

The new Massimo's on Queen West, under constructionIf pizza parlours can be tragedies, then Massimo's can fairly claim to be the King Lear of Toronto's late night standbys for a slice and a pop. The College Street mainstay has been closed twice this year - once in March for health department violations, and then permanently when a kitchen fire in July shut down its ovens for good.

College Street's loss will be Queen Street's gain, however, when a new Massimo's reopens later this month just a few doors from the Drake Hotel, in the former premises of a tanning salon. It's been a bad couple of years for the much-loved pizzeria, but co-owner Tony DeBartolo is betting on the move changing their luck.

"I think it's a rebirth and a chance to reinvent," DeBartolo says. "We had a lot of loyal customers and there were a lot of things I wanted to do that I wasn't sure would fly in that area. I'm sure I can do those things at this new location."

The new space will be bigger, and so will the menu, with the choice of slices on offer doubling from three or four to eight, though he says that they'll return to the standard his late father set when he opened the eatery in the late '70s, with a slice famous for a sauce that was more tomato than paste.

Mostly he promises that he'll be keeping a closer eye on the operation than during College Street's last troubled months. Massimo's slow decline was noted on local websites and food blogs, many of which wondered if they hadn't succumbed to the "Restaurant Makeover Curse" after a typically controversial 2008 renovation by the Food Network show.

"I was spending a lot of time not at the location, and we basically had a lot of guys that just ran the place into the ground. They ignored health codes, and there was a lot of equipment in the back that wasn't running right that was a health hazard. So they shut the place down, and I don't blame them."

DeBartolo hasn't given up on College, however, and insists that they're looking at returning there in the near future, but he's focused on the Queen West location for now. "We're opening next to Pizza Pizza, so I'm looking forward to the competition."

Photo of new Massimo's on Queen West by Rick McGinnis, and video of July 2009 fire at Massimo's on College (below) by Torontohaxor on Youtube.

Discussion

26 Comments

breer / September 9, 2009 at 11:00 am
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where on queen west??
sg / September 9, 2009 at 11:00 am
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recently moved to little italy and one of the disappointments was how sad the pizza slices looked at massimo's... hope when they move they change their pizza recipe.
Tim replying to a comment from breer / September 9, 2009 at 11:01 am
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Re-read the second paragraph. It's just down the street from the Drake Hotel near Queen and Dovercourt
breer / September 9, 2009 at 11:01 am
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oh right, guess I should just read carefully. duh ;)
Jack K replying to a comment from sg / September 9, 2009 at 12:42 pm
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No need to change their recipe. Best Pizza in town.
Robbie R. / September 9, 2009 at 12:51 pm
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Massimo's was a shadow of its former glory.
Tony had no insurance at all. The building owner (Peter of Peter's Garage fame) got shafted by Tony after the fire - Tony, regardless of his father's decades-long relationship with Peter, washed his hands of the whole thing and left it all for Peter and his friends to clean up. Not to mention that Peter's home above was decimated by the smoke damage.

While Tony had some interesting things to say above, the truth is that he stopped caring about Massimo's a long time ago - he only ever showed up to collect the cash.

No insurance, a sprinkler system that didn't work, and an inattentive owner? Lucky the whole building didn't burn down. :(

I'll miss the pizza, but out of principle I won't ever visit the new place.

His father would be ashamed.
Dan Contogiannis / September 9, 2009 at 01:20 pm
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I never actually went to Massimo's on College. Will definitely try it out when they open up on Queen, though.
Steve Keys / September 9, 2009 at 01:23 pm
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I've been going to Massimos for well over 20 years, and it's been weird lately without my weekly (sometimes nightly) fix. New location is going to be a bit out of my way, but I'll make the trek. Until then, it's all Papa Ceo for me.
Teena in Toronto / September 9, 2009 at 07:10 pm
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Massimo's rocked in the the 80s and 90s ... not so much in the last couple of years :(

It's moving to my 'hood so I'll check 'em out.
Nick / September 9, 2009 at 08:14 pm
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Hope those shady cats who operated the College location won't be running the new joint. They were truly terrible... Food was ok but when the services sucks, it kinda loses it's charm.
Dan / September 10, 2009 at 05:14 pm
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Does more Pizza Mark a New Beginning for the Queen-Dovercourt Ossington Corridor?
Mick / September 10, 2009 at 08:17 pm
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Tony,

Crappy news, but maybe a great opportunity to rebrand and separate yourself from the pack? Truth be told, the quality of your product HAS slipped in recent years...but there's still plenty of goodwill for the namebrand to restore your rep.

No one is known in Toronto as being a great value anymore...what about becoming known as the place with huge slices or loads of toppings (even if it means jacking up your prices a bit)? I say this because Pizza Pizza --as cardboard and shitty as it is, has a lock on the late night drunken horde dollars in that area. Also, you've now got stiff competition from Poutini's, and theirs is a pretty damn addictive product.

Everyone loves a great pizza parlour, Tony...it's time for you to step up and (re-)make your mark on the city.
Wrenkin / September 13, 2009 at 09:32 pm
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They should take the opportunity to ditch that stupid warming carousel. I didn't really miss the old posters that HGTV ditched, but losing the ovens was the last straw.
Turn the Oven / September 17, 2009 at 01:44 pm
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The warming oven is what set Massimo's apart; it should have been repaired instead of removed. It didn't matter that we couldn't see the slices; we knew what they were. After the heat lamp was installed it wasn't the same. I hope they go back to their roots at the new location.
Massimo4ever / October 27, 2009 at 10:18 pm
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Turn the Oven.....Please understand that there was no such thing as a warming oven at the original location. It was an oven that was broken and just held the pizzas. There was never any counter space!
Nick....... No more shady cats just the owner at all times!
Robbie R.........Not sure where you got your information but I a can assure you that the landlord had his part in this mess as well. Too bad for you misguided priciple in this case, more pizza for the rest of us!
Robbie R. / November 1, 2009 at 12:23 am
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Massimo4ever:
How exactly did Peter have any part in the inability of YOUR staff to properly monitor the kitchen?
How exactly did Peter have any part in your inability to maintain the fire control system (which didn't function as it should have, which probably would have saved your restaurant if it did)?
How exactly did he have a part in you not having insurance and forcing his to clean your mess up?

Please, kindly explain these things.
As someone who knows Peter (have for over a decade), and knew you and your family quite well, and ate pizza there multiple times a week for about 15 years, it's amazing how you can spit in his face like that.

This was YOUR fault. No one else's. 100%.

As far as "more pizza for the rest of us": well, I've been to the new place on Queen twice. Both times the pizza wasn't even CLOSE to how good it used to be - even the not-as-good pizza that was served on College St. earlier this year.

You're using different pepperoni.
The crust isn't as thick or crispy.
Pizza sits in the front display far too long.
Your staff (I won't name names, but both times they were your family members) are too busy yappin' in the kitchen to come out front and actually serve pizza. I waited 4 minutes before someone even acknowledged me.

You can have your shit pizza. At least until you get your head out of the clouds and start making the pizza you're famous for.
tony / November 2, 2009 at 10:35 am
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Look man its obvious your opinions side with the landlord, and thats fine.But your opinions are fomulated with only partial infomation.Dont air out things like that unless you have all the facts.However, Im very happy to report, Vinny Masssimo on Queen is doing very well.And thank God our new and loyal customers come for pizza and not the politics.
Robbie R / November 2, 2009 at 10:50 am
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I do also like that you're posting under two different names: "Massimo4ever" and "tony". In this new-fangled piece of technology called the internet, people can tell when you do this.
Massimo4ever / November 2, 2009 at 10:59 am
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I can assure you that we are not the same person as I am Female and last time I checked Tony was a guy's name. I was there at the new location on Queen on Saturday night and happy to say I overheard loyal customers from Woodbridge completely estactic that Massimo's has returned. I agree with "tony", your right about enjoying the best pizza in town instead of the politics. Seems Robbie R has nothing better to do. Quick grab a slice Robbie, perhaps your mood would lighten up and the world may be a better place once again
Robbie R. / November 2, 2009 at 04:33 pm
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"Turn the Oven.....Please understand that there was no such thing as a warming oven at the original location. It was an oven that was broken and just held the pizzas. There was never any counter space!
Nick....... No more shady cats just the owner at all times!
Robbie R.........Not sure where you got your information but I a can assure you that the landlord had his part in this mess as well. Too bad for you misguided priciple in this case, more pizza for the rest of us!"

For someone who's not Tony, you sure seem to have a LOT of behind-the-counter knowledge of the inner workings of the operation... give us a break.

Once again, I'll make it crystal clear for you: *make the pizza your dad made the name famous for. Not the crap you're serving now. Don't cut corners. Loyal Massimo customers *know* the difference.

Let the pizza do the talking. It's not! And that's the problem.
bittles / November 2, 2009 at 05:22 pm
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I went to Lord Landsdowne so you best believe that I am know Massimo's pizza. I'v been to the new location and the pizza was just ok. Both times the pie needed another few mins in the oven. The sauce is still the same but I am missing the old pepperoni. Really I wish these guys luck cause the father was one of the nicest guys when I was a kid and tony was a good guy at the new location (despite the fact I woke him up from a nap at a table).

All in all its not the same but sorry robbie I wouldn't call it "crap" either.
tonymassimo / November 3, 2009 at 12:17 pm
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bittes from Lord landsdowne, thanks for the comments and being a vocal pie eater.Heres the deal, we cook our pies a little sooner to avoid dryness from the pizza warmer. Our pepperoni is different from june 09, but i can assure you its saputo's best quality pepperoni.Oddly enough,we were using their cheapest pepperoni before.Maybe new isn't better.Maybe enough pie lovers like bittes want the old pepperoni back, i'll make the change.And for dozing off, i apologize, ive been working seven days a week.
geary nightz / November 11, 2009 at 06:48 pm
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Any word on the new college location?
Chengbin replying to a comment from tonymassimo / December 19, 2009 at 11:05 am
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Tony.

You know me, I'm Chengbin, I had your pizza for lunch every day for 3 years before I went to high school.

I can guarantee you, the change in pepperoni was imminent for me. The old pepperoni is 100x better. PLEASE change it back. I REALLY REALLY want to get a slice, but I don't have time to go to the Queen's location. I really miss it. Your pizza was like my crack (yes, it was THAT good). Sorry you had to close down your College location.
IanK / February 10, 2010 at 08:29 am
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Hey Tony,

My grandmother lived on Lippincott St. for 75 years. I used to come by Massimos when I was there on Sunday afternoons. Your dad was a fantastic guy and you guys had the best pizza. I didnt get a chance to visit your college St. location after the renovations, but I will make my way to your new location in the very near future.
Daniel B / December 13, 2013 at 11:11 am
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I went to Lord Lansdowne from 1984-92...
I used to eat at 2 places for lunch Massimos Pizza & Anna's candy shop. Those big old slices remind me of my child hood.. all these years I still haven't had a slice that comes even close. You could smell it from the school yard.

What happened? :/

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