WARNING: The following article may get long. But it’s worth it.
I love Food Network. I watch it whenever I can with WW, and it adds so much simple joy to our lives. Unlike much of present-day “unscripted” programming which often leaves you with a slimy, schadenfreude-like feeling (namely from just looking at the promos for Gypsy Sisters or Honey Boo Boo) the shows on Food Network are generally jovial and full of clean-cut goodness. After all, it’s about good eats!
My favourite show on this channel is You Gotta Eat Here, featuring John Catucci. Being a genuine Italian boy myself, I naturally gravitated towards his enthusiastic and positive attitude to all things food-related. What I love most about the show, however, was that it was a CANADIAN show. Now I’m not that big on patriotism (I only ever teared up twice when Oh Canada was playing, and I insist that it was because I was juggling onions), but the fact that the show is based in Canada means that it covers restaurants that I can actually visit! Well, at least the ones in Ontario.
Actually, to be honest, while I have seen a lot of great-looking places and crazy awesome menus featured on the show (which is usually accompanied with me punching WW in the arm while saying “HolyshitlookitTHAT!”), not many of them are establishments that are around town. Classic example would be an interesting place where the sandwiches on the burgers are instead replaced by WAFFLES. Lo and behold, this was in Vancouver. Bah.
So I was positively giddy when I saw a feature on Pie: a restaurant that offers insanely delicious-looking thin crust pizzas, served in an unpretentious environment, with friendly service and ambience…and found out that it was in Barrie! Hot dang that’s close enough for me!
For my non-Canadian readers, Barrie is a medium-sized city located around an hour north of where I live. And I live, incidentally, around a half-hour’s drive (assuming no traffic) from downtown Toronto. So the place was actually closer to my house than to Toronto. Ah HAH. I knew that someday, living in Markham would have a benefit! Still waiting for that second one though.
So after an hour’s drive through the snow covered side road that runs parallel to Highway 400, we pulled up into a surprisingly hidden restaurant off of the main road. I had expected it to be much more prominent, but this was positively tucked in. In fact, while you can see the signage and the restaurant building off the road, I would imagine that it’s one of those places that you drive by at 100km/h thinking “Now how the hell would I get there?”. But now that we’ve arrived at the place, we saw that the building was quite big, the colours and signage positively bright, and with a feeling of anticipation we walked in. It’s also interesting to note that the place is located right besides a Goodlife Fitness centre. Hmmm…
First things first: This place isn’t shy about the fact that it was featured on You Gotta Eat Here! (and honestly, why should it be? The show’s awesome!) There’s tons of pictures of John Catucci smiling, and many of the patrons I spoke to said that they too watch the show. Heck, even the TVs were playing the Food Network. This was my kind of place.
Opening the menus, I quickly knew what I wanted: the Cow Pie, a bechamel sauce-based pizza (yep, you read that right) topped with spinach and mushrooms, along with a smothering of beef shank. WW, despite not fully getting the significance of Dr Seuss (bless her heart) ordered the Green Eggs and Ham, based on a combination of my recommendation and the fact that it was featured on the show. We were excited.
While waiting, we saw the table next door get one of the special pizzas (I forgot what it was called but it’s on its own section in the menu – you can’t miss it) which is basically a triple decker pizza loaded with poutine on top. It was ridonkulous and they even gave you a big half-moon BLADE to cut it with. Apparently the whole thing was free if you could finish it yourself in 35 minutes. Judging by the sheer size, that’s crazy talk.
So when our food came, we instantly realized we ordered way too much (which is good because we love leftovers), so I proceeded to scarf down mine while WW scarf down hers, before exchanging a few slices here and there. I love how they didn’t pre-cut the slices for you, but rather give you a nice sharp pizza cutter so you can define your own size.
The Cow Pie was one of the smoothest-tasting pizzas I’ve ever had. Its flavour was surprisingly a tad more subtle than I thought, but the creaminess of the bechamel mixed in perfectly with the tender chunks of beef and the smorgasbord of spinach. It was perhaps lacking a bit of spice, so I was delighted to find out that the restaurant serves up Asian-style sambal sauce. Not quite the ones you’d find in Indonesia, but awesome nonetheless. There’s something deeply satisfying about eating a velvety smooth pizza, punctuated by tender meat chunks, and capped off with a little zing at the end. The spinach and mushrooms provide a nice fresh taste in your mouth that gives nice contrast to all the heaviness that you’re tasting, and overall I’d say that this was an awesome pie.
The Green Eggs and Ham pizza, on the other hand, hits you in the face with flavour and doesn’t let up until you cry Uncle. The strong taste of pesto is definitely the dominant feature here, with little chunks of smooth roasted potato and delicious salty bacon providing staccato punctuations in your tastebuds. The creaminess of the egg that was basically semi-cooked on the pie itself was a great bonus. If you like your pizza to be full-bodied, this is a great pie for you.
A nice touch was that the owner, Randy, came out to greet us. I don’t know if he does this to all his patrons (I’m assuming he does, I’m only crazily popular in Markham, not so much in Barrie :P), but I found it to be a nice touch. At the end of the meal we got some complimentary dessert: their famous Sweet Balls (teeheehee) which was basically fried dough (very very tasty) doused in cinnamon and dulce de leche. Another crazily sinful delight and a nice way to top off the meal.
There’s nothing much more that I can say about this place. I would heartily recommend this place for people who love interesting takes on classic pizza pies, and for anyone who likes to have a little fun in their dining experience. I even briefly considered hosting my 30th birthday party here, but trying to organize 2 dozen people to drive all to Barrie at the same time may end in my car getting rioted so perhaps not. Still, I definitely will return and bring friends and my parents here because, heck, YOU GOTTA EAT HERE!
–Final verdict: Mari Makan!
34 Commerce Park Drive
Barrie, ON L4N 1X8