Drive through any major Canadian
city and you will see rows upon rows of fast food restaurants along
their main drags, all serving the same thin: the burger.
Drive through any major Canadian city and you will see rows upon rows of fast food restaurants along their main drags, all serving the same thin: the burger.
Once the pride of the local mom and pop restaurant, huge multinational corporations have swallowed up the quick-serve staple and cheapened into a “drive-through” discount.
The pizza industry seems destined to share this fate – once the bastion of the local trattoria, the pizza is sold in a manner that supports rapid consumption. This Italian favourite can now be ready in five minutes, carved from massive pies that have been congealing under heat lamps all day.
Hungry for more? There are two-for-one deals, three-for-one extravaganzas, and buy-one-get-one-free deals, slices sold with bags of chips or massive party size pies.
The food we love is in danger of becoming another processed staple, sold the same everywhere, cheaply to the mass market.
A small pizza parlour in Thornhill, Ont., is trying to make pizza a gourmet eating experience again. Dante and Diego Paoletti and various other Paoletti family members, have been running Dante’s Italian Restaurant for 32 years.
This is not your typical pizzeria.
It is both a successful full-service restaurant and a high-volume carryout and delivery operation.
Dante’s is famous for providing hot and fresh pizza to most of the Greater Toronto Area and beyond. This small, off-the-beaten-track operation enjoys a massive catchment area, bounded by Mississauga to the west, Scarborough to the east and as far north as Newmarket.
On a typical Friday night, 20 drivers deliver up to 250 pizzas.
Dante Paoletti describes how this massive task is accomplished: “The pizzas are cooked to order on a stone.”
The family owners of Dante’s remain committed to continue to use the age-old stone baking method, while most of their chain-based competitors employ a conventional conveyor oven.
“The pizzas come out of the oven boiling hot, and are too hot too eat. They are put into a heated pizza bag and drivers take one pizza per delivery. The average delivery time is 40 minutes,” says Paoletti.
Dante’s is a busy place but no matter how busy quality is never compromised. Dough is made fresh every day and discarded after four hours. The dough is used at the exact moment it rises to ensure the utmost quality and freshness.
The sauces are made daily from scratch. Meat is of the utmost freshness and looks and smells like meat. When ordering steak on pizza at Dante’s you get real sirloin sliced thick.
Dante’s full-service restaurant is also a hive of activity. Its décor is quaint, charming and quintessentially “old school Italian.”
In traditional old-world Italian style customers are treated like family – and without pretension. Service is friendly and pizzas, pastas and Caesar salads are delivered with a friendly smile to your table. The dining room encompasses two rooms but is small and cozy. The tables are simply set, with pictures of Italy on the walls.
After 32 years in the pizza business Paoletti has seen a lot of changes.
“People are into healthy eating now. Where before it was all meat, now consumers want whole wheat pizzas (coming soon) and gourmet vegetable toppings.”
The restaurant offers an extensive list of vegetable toppings for the more sophisticated consumer and includes roasted eggplant, roasted yellow pepper and capers. One of Dante’s newest creations is a white pizza. The pizza has a combination of extra virgin olive oil and spices with parmigiana and mozzarella cheese.
He has advice for other pizza makers. “Never forget the enjoyment of food. Remember consistency and above all else quality and freshness of ingredients is important. Be hands on throughout the process.”
Not content to own the gourmet pizza world Dante’s is branching out to supermarkets. As of this writing, they are in negotiations to supply major grocery stores with their signature homemade pasta sauces. The sauces are already available on site.
The success of Dante’s and their commitment to pizza is a shining example to pizzaiolos everywhere. In our fast-paced world of rapid volume consumption, it is possible to create a delicious, authentic pizza of the highest quality and deliver it hot and fresh to the door; it also possible to service a hungry dine-in clientele.
Perhaps in the future more pizza restaurants will take this model to heart and reinvent pizza as the item we all know it can be: something truly special and tasty.
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