The new Massimo's on Queen West, under construction

After Fire, Massimo's To Reopen on Queen

If 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.

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