A few weeks back I had come to the ByWard Market with my son to pay our respects to Domus Café. He had celebrated a thirteenth birthday there, along with another family feast to mark a university graduation. We noted the massive ‘For Lease’ sign. We cupped our hands around our eyes and peered through the windows into the empty space. We shook our heads and we sighed. Then we smelled pizza — and I spied a face that was familiar to me, delivering the pizza to an outdoor table. So we crossed the street.
The last time I saw Luigi he was handing me a rabbit. A very nice stew, as I recall. I still have the 2003 review of the dish. That was at (the late) Zibibbo Restaurant on Somerset Street, owned by Luigi Meliambro.
I liked the short-lived Zibibbo; I liked its second floor lounge (TheCamarilloBrilloUpstairs) but the place closed ten years ago, and Luigi moved on. To Kanata, I believe. And then across the river. Friends in Chelsea and Wakefield were Friday night regulars at his pizza joint, Cheezy Luigi’s, though I’d never had the pleasure.
Meliambro has moved back to Ottawa now, and has a new venture. Pizza, fired in one of those crazy-hot ovens in something like 140 seconds. The pies are created to order, assembly line style (a la Subway) while you wait. Fiazza Fresh Fired is found on Murray Street in the spot where Pecco’s bike shop used to be.
It works like this: you queue up, read a lot, and hem and haw while the kids in their Fiazza Fresh Fired T’s and food service gloves wait patiently for instructions. You may order one of the dozen suggested combinations, or you create your own based on a lengthy list of toppings. There are two bases — regular and gluten free. The sauce, we are told, is made with (the lionized) San Marzano tomatoes. There are seven cheese options, including blue, feta, goat cheese, fior di latte, or the house blend. All cheeses, we are told, are locally sourced. Toppings come in two categories — the traditional (mostly vegetable, at $1.25 each) and specialty (mostly meat, along with organic mushrooms). The “After Fired” options — fresh basil, chilli flakes, oregano, evoo drizzle — are on the house. Once you’ve placed your order, you can watch them load it on and fire it up, or sit down and have it delivered.
The Fiazza folk have been clever about ticking all the correct buzz word boxes: additive free, nitrate free, naturally smoked, locally sourced, organic this, no nut that, gluten free available, craft beer, Ontario wine … there’s even an option for vegan cheese (add two bucks). And there’s “The Fiazza Fresh Fired Fund”, which supports various local charities when you buy a Fiazza gift card.
It’s quite a smart looking place, in a great location with a nice patio (albeit with the depressing view of Domus papered up).
I liked my pizza. It chose the “Magik Mushroom” with ‘local organic mushrooms’, Fiazza cheese blend, truffle oil, parmesan, red sauce. I added caramelized onions. (‘Cause I could.) I liked my son’s pie too. He had wanted the ‘Carnivore’ pizza, but I made him order the ‘Carbonara’ in order to sample a second sauce. A cream based Alfredo naps the Carbonara, topped with ‘naturally smoked’ bacon, roasted onions, rosemary needles, parmesan, and Fiazza’s cheese blend.
The brown bubbles in the pastry weren’t as smoky as I’d like (missing the campfire flavour of a wood fired oven) but the product was fast and fresh and the cheese was clean tasting, a far cry from the usual scab of waxy stuff that masquerades as mozzarella. So many pizzas fall apart from lingering after they leave the oven. None of that here. I also had a Caesar, which didn’t send me anywhere, and was missing the promised pizza croutons, but was otherwise fine enough.
There were oatmeal-maple sandwich cookies at the cash (“vegan, and nut and gluten-free!”) which we found uncomfortably sweet.
This isn’t a proper review. Just a quick introduction to a new project from a restauranteur who’s been around, done a few things — many of them right — and who’s clearly taking a stab at something quite new in the fast food pizza market. Right across the street from something old … now gone.
“Specialty pies” range from $7.95 to $12.95; Create your own option: Base pizza, $6.95, toppings $1.25 or $2.25 each.
Open Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. , Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.
86 Murray Street, 613-562-2000, www.fiazza.ca
First published in OttawaMagazine.com in “DesBrisay Dines” column, July 28, 2014