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Restaurants

Pizzeria Libretto (Danforth)

Posted by Frank / Reviewed on December 19, 2011 / review policy

Pizzeria Libretto danforthPizzeria Libretto Danforth is a lesson in nostalgia. Funkdadelic and Motown classics bounce off the walls in a room that recalls the Ossington original and it's easy to imagine that during a Friday dinner service the two Naples-made wood burning pizza ovens will crank out pies non-stop for a room packed with young parents eager for a taste of life before the sitter was the most important accessory for an evening out (and to accommodate such necessary forward thinking, this Libretto generously takes reservations).

Pizzeria Libretto danforthThe original Pizzeria Libretto was one of my favourite restaurants of 2008 so I jumped at the chance to check out the new east-end outpost of Max Rimaldi and Rocco Agostino's temple to Neapolitan pie.

Pizzeria Libretto danforthMy first Libretto experience was a giddy joyride of flavours, an exhilarating introduction the exhilarating eloquence of those three magic letters: V-P-N. Skip ahead to 2010 and the Agostino-Rimaldi conspiracy launches a little gem of a wine bar called Enoteca Sociale combining it's Enomatic wine system offering a tremendous array of vino by the glass and a solid card of rustic Italian fare and the regazze had another winner on their hands.

I realized while savouring my first bite of the anchovy crostini ($8, maybe it was prophetic that the top-billed star of this appetizer's show was a little lost among the richness of the tomatoes, eggplant, and the bright tang of buffalo ricotta) that the flavour I was actually chasing was the spark of revelation, the excitement of discovery that Max and Rocco had been feeding me over the years and that as good as all the food would turn out to be on this day, it wouldn't satisfy my hunger the way that first Libretto bite did 3 years earlier.

Foodwise, Pizzeria Libretto Danforth is every bit as good as its west-end sis and a welcome addition to the solid Greektown Italian fare like 7 Numbers and to a lesser degree, Il Fornello (the media-driven feud with Queen Margherita is overblown since there's always room for amazing 'za in any hood).

People familiar with the orginal Libretto will recognize menu items from previous visits with classics of Chef Rocco Agostino's pizzas repertoire like the duck prosciutto pizza pie making the trip east.

Pizzeria Libretto danforthThere are definitely flickers of brilliance coming from the kitchen in the form of things like the Shellfish Acqua Pazza starter ($13). This water is definitely crazy--crazy good! The brodo (traditionally thin and made with tomatoes, a little sea water and flavoured with the cooking fish) is a rich bisque perfumed with oregano and sweet from vine-ripened DOP san marzanos, fennel, and lobster stock. The char from the grilled bread added a bitterness that balanced the dish's sweetness perfectly cooked spot prawns and was so good we could overlook the tiny bit of grit from the manila clams.

Pizzeria Libretto danforthThe pizza is VPN perfection but that's what you get when you follow such strict rules. The crust is textbook blister and char with the perfect amount of give allowing the edges of a slice to be folded together. The Quatro Formaggi ($16) is earthy (from a hit of truffle), rich, salty and complex with sheep (Moliterno), buffalo (Mozzarella) and cow's milk (Parmigiano-Reggiano and Montasio) cheeses.

The pork belly pizza ($15, top image), in contrast, is sweet and intricate play of complimenting flavours. A deconstructed bacon pizza, translucent slices of fresh pork belly drape across a pie with subtle smoky flavour coming from the smoked tomato ragu and additional sweetness coming from a scatter of caramelized onion and lemon thyme. All these flavours are worked into a frenzy with dabs of "bomba" the chef's secret spicy aioli. The pork belly was my own personal bit of nostalgia since the flavours took me back to childhood summers and family pig roasts--in the east end no less!

Pizzeria Libretto danforthThe deserts are definitely tasty with both the amaretto infused chocolate budino ($7) and the crunchy meringue-like almond biscotti ($3) a pleasing end to the meal (though you might not want to order both at the same time unless you really like almonds). Our server, clad in a black "Pizzeria Libretto" tee, was friendly and informative, dispensing additional menu info when required and quick to refill our glasses but otherwise perfectly and professionally invisible.

Any other restaurateur would give their eye teeth to open a place as good as Pizzeria Libretto Danforth and the neighbourhood is much better foodwise for it but I can't help but miss the little bit of excitement of discovering something new that came with the previous offerings from the Libretto crew.

With the Libretto group collaborating with Grant Van Gameren (ex-Black Hoof chef) on a new resto there's still hope for more brilliant plates to come to hopefully satisfy the craving for adventure that this visit to the new Libretto lacked. In the meantime though, indulging in nostalgia never tasted so good.

Pizzeria Libretto DanforthPhotos Courtesy Aislinn Smith

Discussion

32 Comments

Paul / December 19, 2011 at 12:56 pm
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Had a fantastic meal there the other week. These two restaurants definitely adhere to a high set of standards. And thankfully there's none of the 'no reservations' nonsense at the Danforth location. Must try the desserts next time.
BELCH / December 19, 2011 at 01:31 pm
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A chain is a chain is a chain.
Cindy / December 19, 2011 at 02:43 pm
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What's the wait like? Is it as busy at the West-end location?
Guy / December 19, 2011 at 02:47 pm
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A curmudgeon is a curmudgeon is a curmudgeon.
Michael / December 19, 2011 at 02:59 pm
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@Belch - What does that even mean? Are you really lumping Libretto in with McDonald's and Denny's because they opened a second location?
nrd / December 19, 2011 at 03:18 pm
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Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow....
moe / December 19, 2011 at 03:53 pm
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not a curmodgeon. but @Belch don't you agree with @Michael. they did well before so why not. I have not visited Danforth for such a long time, not a single decent place to dine or relax. perhaps this would allow people to rediscover the forgotten Greeks.
monkey replying to a comment from moe / December 19, 2011 at 04:35 pm
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you're ironic! 'I have not visited Danforth for such a long time, not a single decent place to dine or relax' wins the most ridiculous statement of the year.
boniver / December 19, 2011 at 08:45 pm
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why open up a second joint when the first one sucks? To call this neapolitan pizza should be illegal. Doesn't even come close.
David / December 19, 2011 at 10:40 pm
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This review is just saying that it is real good Italian food...Nothing exceptional...
Jonathan / December 20, 2011 at 12:09 am
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Please don't use parenthetical expressions (they dissolve your focus (and wreck the flow) of your writing). (my coworker does this and it drives me nuts (irrelevant)).
Dalia replying to a comment from Paul / December 20, 2011 at 07:14 am
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Loved it there with my friends. Great night out. And yes, we reserved - hail Mary!
Dalia replying to a comment from Paul / December 20, 2011 at 07:15 am
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Loved it there with friends. Great night out. And yes, we reserved - hail Mary!
Disgusting / December 20, 2011 at 11:19 am
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This is great pizza if you like yours uncooked and soggy. You can't even cut it. I watched a table of 6 guests each tear theirs apart. They couldn't even pick the pieces up since they fall apart. Go to NYC to see real brick and coal oven pizza. TO just doesn't get it.
Chris replying to a comment from Disgusting / December 20, 2011 at 08:36 pm
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Oh yeah - another "Toronto sucks because its not New York" poster - how original.

You're an idiot. Libretto is authentic. I've been to Naples and have had the "real thing" - Libretto nails it, as does QMP. Get over yourself. If you have such a hard-on for NY you really should be living there, and if you do live there, then you're even more lame for posting on this blog.

Alberto / December 21, 2011 at 09:57 pm
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All these so called Pizza "know it all's" like boniver and Disgusting. It certainly is a matter of personal taste. But if you are looking for authentic Neaopolitan pizza, Pizzeria Libretto has nailed it. This pizza is generally softer chewier and can be folded whereas Roman style pizza most often is crispy thin style pizza. I prefer Roman style but love Pizzeria Libretto's neapolitan pizza.

Diddly / December 22, 2011 at 09:20 am
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Bomba is not an aioli, there are no eggs involved. It is a spicy, vegetable-based paste.

Also, Chef Rocco did not bring his "duck proscuitto pizza" to the Danforth, as it doesn't exist. You meant the duck confit pizza.
Mandy / December 22, 2011 at 10:40 pm
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Best restaurant on Danforth! Great place to get great food with a focus on local ingredients, ethical meat, and fair-trade organic coffee to follow. They even have wines from Malivoire! The pizza was and so were the apps... But don't go expecting to get cheesy pizza like you can get at Pizzaiola (sp?) or Pizza Pizza. This is apparently authentic and a whole different experience.
John / December 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm
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The crust is exactly like fresh naan. If you like that sort of thing then fine. Personally I enjoyed the meal, a little pricey on the apps, other than that it's overrated.
foodie_to / December 23, 2011 at 06:30 pm
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I've been going to the Ossington location for a couple of years. The Danforth location was great! Still prefer the atmosphere of the original, but the pizza is the same, delicious as always, plus they have some different things on the menu which i got to try.

Highly recommend the dungeness crab ravioli with chanterelles and the anchovy crostino as appetizers. Happy to see Rimaldi's expansion to the east end!

Shelley Silverman / February 11, 2012 at 10:50 pm
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NONONONONO!!!!!!!!!!
My god, will someone here please acknowledge that their pizza crust is not pizza crust! It's mushy flatbread. Was I there at the wrong time? Believe me. I will never return for a mediocre pizza which cost me 17.00.
bean / February 17, 2012 at 09:40 am
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This place is way overrated. My pizza was really soggy and undercooked, and not that great. Do yourself a favour and go down to Queen Street, Queen Marguerite does it soooo much better.
Johnny Boy / March 10, 2012 at 11:16 am
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give it up - soggy crust - skimpy toppings - overpriced - the Neapolitans would be embarrassed to serve this - this is the "emperor's new clothes" pizza style IMO
Chrissy / March 13, 2012 at 11:42 am
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The pizza is super soggy! Yuck.
gxt / March 18, 2012 at 10:04 pm
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My absolute favourite pizza place in all of Toronto. Those thin pizzas look skimpy, but are incredibly filling; the sauces are wonderfully savoury, and the various toppings all have their own individual charms. THANK GOD they accept reservations now so I can go as often as I want without having to wait!
Barbara / May 18, 2012 at 04:15 pm
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Five of us were at Libretto Pizza on May 17 all of us were impressed with the quality of the food the Antipasto board was to die for the piza delicious .Our waiter was great and the Tramisu was wonderful. who cares if it is served in a jam jar We are members of a supper club familiar with the restaurants in Toronto.
zkpxo / November 7, 2012 at 05:58 pm
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I bet these simpletons that stated that the pizza they ate at libretto were soggy tried to pick up the pizza with their hands.
B / November 9, 2012 at 04:43 pm
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This review is very out of date. A large portion of the menu, notably the entire assaggini menu (depicted in the photo and review above) has changed, and should be updated before posting as a part of the "best of"--in this case, best kid friendly restaurants--series.
jo / February 23, 2013 at 06:01 pm
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garbage pizza
Mike / August 16, 2013 at 07:44 pm
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The pizza is consistently high quality at both locations, but I have noticed a dip in service quality at their Danforth joint. The young staff on both occasions seemed aloof and uptight. Listen, I understand that as an Art History or Theatre Studies grad you did not expect to be serving pizza pies (albeit delicious ones) at age 25, but try not to be a debby downer and bring the table down with you.
Doodle / December 29, 2013 at 11:06 pm
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PURE GARBAGE! Worst service in the food industry, had us waiting at the door forever when there were plenty of unreserved seats, then our wait at the table was over an hour, to which a complimentary glass of wine was givin to me by the owner, the place was overcrowded, way too loud, couldnt have a nice conversation, just a sea of tables with no thought givin to esthetics. The staff greeted us with sour faces like a disgruntled employee waiting for their parting check. Huge disappointment.
Danny / March 19, 2014 at 12:23 am
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Not good. Why people rave about this place is beyond me. What a soggy mess - my wife had the mushroom pizza - dough smothered in uncooked button mushrooms. What happens to mushrooms when exposed to an extremely hot oven for a short period of time? They sweat, they don't cook. My pie sucked too.

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