Vesuvio has been a reliable, family-run, old-school Italian joint for decades, having survived a prohibition dry stretch in the neighbourhood.
Founded by the Pugliese family in 1957, Hectore still makes pizzas in the separate side takeout area in full view of waiting customers, and Vesuvio still proudly delivers some of the best pizza in the city.
This Frankenstein's monster of a building used to be a furniture store back in the day, with further additions progressively tacked on to the back. Nowadays, the spacious main dining area retains a homey Italian charm, a sprawling three-dimensional scene leaping out of a back wall.
The pizza here is more or less New York style, or New York style from 60 years ago, as Hectore tells it. The pizza dough gets a 24-hour ferment, landing crusts somewhere between puffy and crispy, with all pies cooked in a stone-bottom gas oven.
A party-size pepperoni pizza goes for around $30, and while they don’t do online ordering, they do have an online “pizza calculator” and a delivery zone map.
Calamari fritti ($13) and garlic bread with cheese ($5) make a classic start to a Vesuvio meal, no frills and comforting.
Dine-in pizzas come in 11-inch personal pies. The Bella ($17.50) stays true to its name with pretty and light toppings of artichoke hearts and fresh tomato on an asiago and pesto base.
The lasagna ($16) is also legendary here, available in beef or veggie varieties. The sauce is simmered for four hours and, despite its oozy, cheesy crust, this lasagna actually feels lighter than some, like I could devour it easily in one sitting.
It could also be thanks to light, fresh noodles provided by Pasta Corner.
Fettuccine di Mare ($22.50) tops Pasta Corner fettuccine with mussels, shrimps, scallops and calamari that are all beautifully tender and imbue a light tomato sauce with rich seafood flavour.
Fettuccine Pesto ($21) sources the same fresh pasta, this time in a thick and creamy sauce that still has a lot of herb-y pesto flavour and balances nicely with zesty sun-dried tomatoes.
A list of mostly Italian red wines start around a reasonable $27 for a bottle, $7 a glass.
Espresso ($3) or a teeny cappuccino ($4.25) topped with a cloud of foam, both served with a mini almond biscotti, is the only way to end this traditional Italian meal.
Like the natural phenomenon it’s loosely named after, this bastion of Toronto Italian cuisine that’s been around for over 50 years is constantly bubbling away in the background, bursting with activity on weekends when hundreds of pizzas are usually sold.