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850 Degrees Pizzeriais a homage to Canada.
All the Etobicoke restaurant’s ingredients are locally or Canadian-sourced (except the Parmesan), including water buffalo meat, cheese and all-Canadian meats like prosciutto from Niagara.
Even the names of the 18 pizzas are pure Canadiana — like St. John's, Muskoka, Grand River, Rocket (for both the TTC's Red Rocket and Montreal Canadiens legend Rocket Richard), Lord Stanley, Superman (created by Torontonian Joe Schuster) and the locally inspired Long Branch, Bloor by the Park and Dave Bolland (a Mimico resident, who had a stint with the Leafs and helped the Chicago Blackhawks win two Stanley Cups).
“If you’ve got products here and they’re comparable, if not better in some cases, why not use it? When you’re talking about the food with people, they really buy into it big-time,” said co-owner Chris Beard.
In 2014, the Dublin, Ireland native opened 850 Degrees Pizzeria on Lake Shore with his aunt Siobhan Chambers and uncle Wayne Stasiulis. Beard opened the restaurant a year after moving with his wife, Steffie, and nine-year-old son Ethan to the country he “fell in love with at 18.”
The Long Branch restaurant gets its name from its large, gas-fired “Ferrari of pizza ovens” from California, which cooks a pizza in 60 to 80 seconds.
Beard trained as a pizzaiolo, or professional pizza maker, in Salerno, Italy for a year at age 17. He spent his career in hospitality in London, England in pizza restaurants and big coffee chain retailers before coming to Canada.
850 Degrees serves Neapolitan-style pizza made with so-called "00-grade" flour; the dough proofed for 48 hours then cooked quickly in intense heat.
“We’re taking a classic and making it an original,” Beard said. “You get really, really good ingredients. You make the dough light, airy, fluffy and crunchy. You do it, do it well and let the ingredients do the talking.”
The restaurant keeps it Canadian in the beverage department, too. It only carries Canadian beer and wine, including Etobicoke craft brewers Great Lakes Brewery and Black Oak Brewing Co., and Two Sisters Vineyards from Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The menu is balanced between meat and vegetarian meals with gluten-free and dairy-free options. The restaurant is nut-free and only uses extra-virgin olive oil.
There's always a featured pizza, pasta and wine of the month.
The tomato sauce is simply tomatoes, basil, olive oil and salt.
Beard is particularly proud of his antipasto, a collection of salami, prosciutto, olives, roasted vegetables, Ontario buffalo brie and Focaccia: “You will not get a better value in Toronto than our antipasto, I put my hand to the oven.”
Frances Long has been a regular customer for the past three years.
“Her eyes just lit up,” Long said of her granddaughter, Alyssa Long, 13, whom she treated to lunch on her school PA Day.
“It’s excellent,” Long said, recommending her fave pizza Bloor by the Park, a spin on the Canadian classic with local, all-beef pepperoni, crispy, thick-cut bacon and fresh cremini mushrooms.
“The crust is so light. All the ingredients are fresh. And the people are so nice.”
850 Degrees has offered a dozen or so workshops, inviting suppliers to do wine or beer tastings for customers.
“People really enjoy it,” Beard said. “People try wines they might never buy at the LCBO and they’re converted. We want to push the whole Canadian thing. We’ll absorb (the cost difference). We want people to enjoy Canadian.”
The restaurant celebrated its fifth anniversary on Jan. 28 with a customer appreciation day.