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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Pizza Party

Noelle Chorney
Published Thursday June 11, 05:37 pm
Capanna leads the wave of homegrown gourmet pies

CAPANNA PIZZERIA
101 20th ST. W.
306-952-0202

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, Saskatoon’s pizza culture — once dominated by Vern’s, Venice House and similar offerings — has begun to evolve.

We’ve been able to enjoy Italian-inspired wood-fired pizzas at Il Secondo and the Night Oven Bakery, for example. Then, Famoso was our first taste of a gourmet pizza joint open regularly for dinners. But they’re a chain, and while what they do is very good, it’s a different thing altogether to add some more locally owned character to Saskatoon’s pizzascape.

Enter Capanna, attached to and supplied by Riversdale Deli. (What a great idea! You’re already importing excellent meats and cheeses, so why not put them on pizza?)

Capanna is tiny, but awesome. It’s got everything you need: a bar, a “chef’s table” (where you can dine while watching the chefs at work), a few small, regular tables, an affordable and thoughtful wine list, thin-crust pizzas and some killer appetizers.

The first sign of awesomeness for me was the fact that they have sardines on their list of appetizers. Fresh sardines, not the little canned things (although I’m not opposed to those either), grilled and simply finished, are vastly undervalued in our city. These things are da bomb.

Capanna does them up just right — topped with panko breadcrumbs, fennel seeds and thinly sliced fennel salad. You have to pull them apart yourself, which can be a little messy, and possibly upsetting for queasy types who don’t like to look their food in the eye (the heads are still on them), but it’s oh-so worth it.

The second sign of awesomeness is their wine list, sourced entirely from Fine Wines Saskatchewan, which means that every wine on their list will be a shining example of the country and varietal and will over-deliver on the price point.

On my first visit to Capanna, we pulled up at the bar and sipped Melipal Malbec Rosé (a perfect summer wine) while we perused the menu. The sardines were an obvious must, but I loved the variety on the list of appetizers (risotto balls, warm olives, chorizo, Caprese salad!), and could have made a meal of just appetizers alone. But I was there for the pizza, so I carried on to see what they had to offer.

It was a tough choice. There are only seven pizzas on the menu, and from there I could narrow it down to three that were must-tries (although the others sounded pretty damn good too). I already mentioned how I love little fish, and the anchovy pizza with roasted garlic, lemon-infused oil and micro greens sounded fabulous. But then there was the caramelized onions, dates and blue cheese. But THEN, there was the daily special: wild mushrooms with truffle oil.

I was sharing the pizza with my friend, so we had to agree on the decision. Since she wasn’t so keen on the anchovies, we opted for the mushrooms.

It was a memorable lunch, topped off with their tiramisu, one of two desserts on the menu (the other being lemon custard with shortbread crust and limoncello glaze). I make my own tiramisu and have high expectations for any that I try, and this one was delicious — creamy and sweet, with a hint of bitter from the coffee.

On my second visit, I decided to go with my urge to try every appetizer on the menu. My husband and I went out to Capanna on a date night, and lucked out to get the chef’s table. They don’t take reservations, so you just have to wait until a table opens up. But they will call you when the table is ready, so you can hang out at Riversdale Deli, or head anywhere on 20th until you get the call. (We slipped over to Odd Couple for a green tea gimlet.)

Our evening at the chef’s table was brilliant. We tried six of the eight appetizers on the list. The chefs working that night comped us a Caprese salad, and we worked our way through the meatballs, arancini (risotto balls), olives, sardines, and seasonal vegetables (which turned out to be cabbage, fried in butter and seasoned with herbs. Amazingly delicious!).

We drank a bottle of Las Hermanas Joven wine while sampling the appies, joking with the chefs, smelling the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen and enjoying the bustle of the restaurant. Regulars were popping in for takeout, other tables were staying for various lengths of time, and we reveled at being in the middle of it.

I threw caution to the wind and ordered the anchovy pizza, even though we were getting too full to eat it. We ended up taking it home, along with the desserts we couldn’t finish — the lemon custard tart, and the special that night, sugar donuts with sour cherry jam for dipping. My only very minor complaint is that the lemon tart was less smooth than I expected. I normally love lemon, but the toothiness of the lemon peel in the custard, combined with the fact that I had eaten far too much already, meant I left it for my husband to finish. He didn’t complain.

Having spent a bit more time with the menu while writing this review, I realize that I still haven’t tried the caramelized onion, date and blue cheese pizza, or the roasted beet, herb mascarpone, arugula and white truffle oil pizza, which smelled heavenly while we were enjoying our meal. Capanna, you haven’t seen the last of me.

HOME SLICE

Speaking of Saskatoon’s evolving pizzascape, Home Slice is a sneaky little addition in the north end. Dale Mackay of Ayden has opened a takeout-only pizza joint in his old neighbourhood of Lawson Heights. If you live in the north end, they’ll also deliver (yay for me!).

These pizzas will be familiar to the Vern’s/Venice House crowd, with the exception that you’ll find no trace of cheap cold cuts anywhere on these pizzas. You will find a thicker crust, crisp on the bottom and bready everywhere else, generously topped with some creative selections.

They have classics like pepperoni or Hawaiian, but you can also try a chicken Caesar pizza that blew my mind, or their version of a Margherita pizza, which isn’t very traditional, but my kids still approved.

You can obviously get cheaper pizza elsewhere, but Home Slice kicks it up a notch, and the price tag is worth it. Order at www.homeslicepizza.ca.  

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