Dante's Inferno Paninoteco
Dante’s Inferno Paninoteca is a teensy little restaurant with a big theme. Literary quotes and painted clouds swirl on the walls and ceiling of the teensy place under jutting statuettes framing a menu of panini and pizzas that take their names from other romantic references.
You won’t find smushed-flat panini or cracker-thin pizza here. All sandwiches come on massive, airy but substantial rolls, and pizzas that range from relatively run-of-the-mill to super spicy and artisanal are made by hand using wheat flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and Grandi Laghi water for the dough and Italian tomatoes for the sauce.
These specifications are requirements for their own entry into a pizza association of their own creation and of which they’re the sole member, the “Societa Vera Pizza Infernale” which pokes slight fun at the snobbiness with which some ’za in Toronto’s begun to be treated.
Pizzas in the “Celestiale” category come in rosso and bianca forms, and “Pizza Infernale” features a sliding scale of hellishly hot pies. “Pizza per gli Spiriti Liberi” (for the free-spirited) allows you to choose your own classic and specialty ingredients.
“Fun Guys in Paradise” ($13.75 for a personal size - $31.75 for a 15”x21” party size) features tender portobello and white mushrooms, spinach, mozzarella, parm, onions, garlic, oregano, and a healthy hit of black pepper all on that chewy, stretchy dough.
I love the “Inferno” pizza ($13.95 - $35.75) from the Infernale menu, chunks of house made Calabrese sausage, large thin slices of spicy sopressata, bell pepper, and hot peppers on a base of tomato sauce and mozzarella. I thought I might want to scale it up as this is the tamest option on that list, but as I edge toward the crust creeping heat sets in.
The “Belly of the Beast” ($8.63) panini sandwiches molten seared house marinated pork belly and sauteed mushrooms with a house salsa verde and sweet balsamic reduction lightened by a heap of raw arugula.
The “Fordius Maximus” ($8.63) gives a classic Italian sandwich an upgrade with a pan fried breaded pork cutlet paired with caramelized onions, thick fresh tomato and lettuce, and a house aioli.
Add an equally spicy side to your pizza with olives marinated with chili flakes and thick slices of jalapeno ($2 - $5 for a fairly mountainous portion).
Imported Italian sodas ($2.75) wash down the heat, and other imported Italian items like Molisana pastas ($2.49) are available.
In amongst the more baroque design elements are movie posters and the like featuring Italian versions of film advertisements (“La Vida de Brian”) or ones that allude to the charming Biblical/literary theme.