The Ottawa Pizza Podcast is here—it’s cheesy, it’s hot, and I’m already hungry. Let’s dig in.
Two pals, Steph and Tyler, tell me about the moment they decided to record themselves eating and reviewing pizza on air: “It all started in September of 2021. Tyler and (his partner) Jenna came over and we were talking about pizza in the suburbs—what’s the situation here? We know downtown pizzas well, but what about the other neighbourhoods? When we’d hang out as two couples, we’d always have pizza, and this time we just thought, ‘we should record this conversation.'”
Steph already had some podcasting experience and her husband Alex did all the editing. This podcast is truly a group effort and something to bring a little bit of joy during these “unprecedented times.”
Steph and Tyler preface the interview by saying, “We are not good food reviewers. We are bad. We eat it and go ‘mmm, it’s good.’ We try pizzas and like most of them, shooting the shit with burps in-between.” Nonetheless, a strong rant emerges about the true purpose of the podcast: highlighting the uniqueness of Ottawa-style pizza.
“People talk about Ottawa being boring and not having a culture but this unique pizza style is something to be proud of, and something people wholeheartedly miss when they move away to Toronto,” say the podcast hosts.
You’ve probably had Ottawa-style pizza many times—it usually hails from a Lebanese-owned place, where the pizza has a sweeter sauce, you get garlic sauce on the side, and you could also order delicious shawarma or poutine at the same time. Think Carlo’s in Hintonburg or Louis Pizza in Vanier.
These are often unassuming places, handed down through families, with a little old person behind the counter. We romanticize these things about travelling, but we have them right here in Ottawa. Steph and Tyler want us to recognize the beauty of Ottawa-style pizza amid a new emerging trend of regional pizza from elsewhere—Chicago-style, New York-style, etc.
There is a deeper history here too—New York and Chicago acquired their rich pizza traditions when Italian people migrated to the country in the early 20th century and after WW2. Similarly, many Lebanese people came to Ottawa in the last century, and couldn’t open their traditional food shops likely due to racism at the time, so they combined popular culture dishes like pizza and poutine with their own cuisine like shawarma, creating unique cultural pollination and adopting a third culture of food.
In fact, “Lebanese people account for a larger share of the population of Ottawa than that of any other census metropolitan area across the country,” according to StatsCan. And we are so grateful to enjoy the food of so many hard-working immigrants in Ottawa.
Ottawa enjoys a rich pizza tradition now, and together with Steph and Tyler, we identified a few different styles of pizza:
- Wood-fired with thin crust, traditional Italian style. Think Anthony’s.
- Ottawa-style, or even Vanier-style pizza, with a lump of pizza dough in the middle instead of the little table, to keep the box from crushing it. Think Louis’ pizza.
- New York-style, with huge slices, cheesy, thinner pizza. The prototype of American pizza, the pizza from “Home Alone.” Think Pubblico’s in Wellington West.
- Chain pizza, like Domino’s and Little Caesars, also different from each other.
- Detroit-style, a square deep-dish cheesy and doughy pizza. Think Stay Gold.
- Chicago deep-dish, a circular round deep pie. Think Made In Chicago Pizza on Innes.
And of course, I had to ask about Steph and Tyler’s favourites. Tyler says his favourite Ottawa-style pizza is from Colonnade on Metcalfe, “It’s THE Ottawa-style pizza done to excellence with crispy cheese, a proprietary cheese blend from Ottawa Valley farmers and a homemade pizza sauce shrouded in secrecy. It’s a real stuck-in-time place where the interior hasn’t changed since 1989.” Tyler’s mom used to bring him there for special occasions so there is the secret ingredient—nostalgia.
Fun fact: Steph had Colonnade pizza at her wedding (more weddings like this, please)! She is still on a quest to find her favourite. After all, “there are different pies for different occasions.”
You can listen to the podcast here, or follow the Ottawa Pizza Podcast on Instagram.