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The patio at Lil Z's. Photo provided.

Lil Z’s Pizza brings its blend of Neapolitan and New York styles to the ByWard Market

By Artyom Zalutskiy on July 22, 2022

The pepperoni classic. Photo provided.

There’s a new pizza spot in town! Lil Z’s Pizza in the ByWard Market joins several semi-recently opened pizza spots such as Giulia, Heartbreakers, Pi Co, Pizza Nerds, and Farinella. Due to the pandemic, restaurants had to rely heavily on the takeout model over the last couple of years, and those orders still play a significant role for many restaurants in town. Pizza spots fare much better than many other restaurants with a takeout model, so perhaps that’s why Ottawa has seen such an influx of pizza restaurants in the last few years. Lil Z’s, the newest addition to the city’s pizza scene, opened only a month ago and is already receiving praise, carving out its place among Ottawa’s pizza providers.

Lil Z’s spicy garlic wings. Photo provided.

Lil Z’s belongs to the same ownership group as its next-door neighbour, The King Eddy diner. Co-owner Johnny Bonney told me that the path towards Lil Z’s began when the spots on either side of King Eddy’s became vacant. The ownership immediately began kicking around ideas of utilizing that space, whether they could expand or open up a new restaurant next door. Bonney said that “[he] and his partner wanted to use one of the spaces to make pizza, a food [they] felt very familiar with, and wanted to explore more on the commercial level.” Eventually, the ownership decided to move King Eddy’s to the larger space on the corner of York Street and Parent Avenue and opened up a pizza spot in the old area.

Lil Z’s interior. Photo provided.

When Bonney discussed this new venture with friends in Florida, they referred him to their nephew in Toronto, Onoffrio Monti, a chef trained in making classic, Italian-style pizza. Monti joined the project as head chef, bringing his expertise and knowledge. The next step was finding an oven, and the ownership landed on a hot-rocks kind that uses a granite pizza stone conveyor belt. Such an oven is a departure from the traditional wood ovens that Monti was accustomed to, but Bonney saw this as an opportunity to create their own niche in the city’s pizza market.

“With Monti’s Neapolitan technique and a more North American-style cooking method, we created a hybrid between Neapolitan and New York-style pizza,” said Bonney.

The hot rocks pizza oven at Lil Z’s. Photo provided.

The restaurant was plagued with many construction delays, but Bonney saw them as a blessing in disguise. “The delays allowed us to sharpen our pencils,” he said. They were able to utilize the extra time to experiment with various flavour combinations and to perfect their menu, eventually landing on their current creations, which include seven varieties of red pizza, four white pizzas, spicy wings, meatballs, eggplant parmesan, and salads. Bonney recommends the “pro pizza” which includes smoked provolone cheese, sausage, three varieties of mushrooms, and chives, as well as the “lil z pizza” which features ricotta cheese, garlic, zucchini, red onion, chilli flakes, lemon zest, and house-made hot honey on an everything bagel crust.

The Lil Z pizza. Photo provided.

When I asked Bonney what kind of atmosphere he desired to create in the restaurant, he said he wished Lil Z’s to be “a comforting, cozy, and welcoming neighbourhood spot where people can feel at home.” Lil Z’s has just introduced a drinks menu that features cocktails, wine, and local draft beers, while the pizza menu will be updated seasonally to keep things engaging and fresh.

I am very excited to see where Lil Z’s goes as it becomes more established, settles into the new space, and carves out its place among Ottawa’s pizza providers.

Lil Z’s Pizza is located at 45 Clarence St in the ByWard Market. They are open 3–10pm Tuesday through Sunday.