Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pazzo: Post-Theatre Pizza You Can't Refuse!

Leontes: O, she's warm!
If this be magic, let it be an art
Lawful as eating.
(William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale)
I scooped another Stratford Festival Tweet Deal (follow Stratfest on Twitter for exclusive Stratford Festival ticket bargains) and was lucky to catch the final preview before this week's gala opening of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. Having never attended a production before at the Tom Paterson Theatre (see pic above) I didn't really know what to expect. I discovered that this might be the best venue to catch a play like The Winter's Tale, which sees intense psychodrama juxtaposed with colourful pastoral romance. Tragedy and comedy infused within a single production... with both dramatic affects enhanced by the intimate, almost interactive atmosphere of this special Stratford Festival venue.
Much of the setting for this unique Shakespeare  tragicomedy was Sicily. How appropriate, then, that my number-one recommendation for post-theatre dining in Stratford is Pazzo Bar and Pizzeria, where they serve up the very best pizza and Italian food in town... alongside stellar wines!
Full transparency here: I've been a dedicated fan of Pazzo Pizzeria's Chef di Cucina Greg Kuepfer (pictured above in the Pazzo kitchen) ever since he serenaded me and my bride Lisa with a stirring a-cappella rendition of the Beastie Boys' "So What'cha Want?" at our wedding reception. So I was stoked to rap with him the other night about the Pazzo experience.

Greg's into his second theatre season as the chef downstairs at Pazzo. When I complimented him on the Pizzeria's authentic Italian menu he gave praise to his whole team, "It's a collective effort." Greg anticipated my interest in the use of Perth County product in the Pazzo kitchen, which he celebrated, "We use as much local as possible." I was impressed to learn that the menu perpetually includes a risotto featuring a local, seasonal vegetable... like the asparagus and fiddlehead risotto that's been on-offer throughout the spring. 
But in the spirit of The Winter's Tale's Sicilian setting, Chef Greg recommended a primo starter in the form of a traditional antipasti plate (pic above). This was perfectly paired with a wine  recommended by personable Pazzo co-owner Lawrence McCabe: the spiciness of the house-marinaded eggplant caponata and the hot Calabrese salami was pacified by a chilled Echos Rosé from the Niagara Peninsula. Being unfamiliar with the ways-of-the-rosés I was enlightened by this wine's versatility accompanying the dish's dynamic combination of olives, cheeses, marinades and Italian meats. I was excited to learn that my rosé education can continue all season, as Pazzo's will be featuring a different Ontario VQA rosé every month!
The Sicilian theme continued as I was presented with the Don Corleone pizza:  bacon, pepperoni, roasted red peppers and basil on the crispy, thin crust Pazzo is so well-known for. Truly, a pie I couldn't refuse! This time Larry recommended a glass of Flatrock Pinot Noir, "The perfect summertime wine, not too overpowering, and a really good example of the Ontario pinots that we have available." I had to agree... The smooth vino and bold 'za complemented each other eloquently: another great call.

I was reminded why Pazzo Pizzeria is so popular with the post-theatre crowd, as well as with the locals year-round. It's got great food and wine, an atmosphere that is unpretentious yet polished, and a team that includes some of my favourite Stratford food personalities. While I loved the Don Corleone, one thing I also appreciate about Pazzo is the create-your-own-custom-pizza checklist every diner is provided with. Offering everything from asiago cheese to prosciutto, to arugula to portobello mushrooms, everyone is empowered to liberate their inner pizza chef.

Thanks go out to Larry and Greg for an outstanding taste of the best post-theatre food and wine Stratford has to offer. Pazzo Pizzeria serves up the Italian until 12 midnight every night (except Mondays) during the festival season. And, of course, bellissima lunch and dinner.

PS: I also look forward to kibbutzing with the Pazzo team at the McCully's Hill Farm Community Garden Co-op throughout the season-in-progress... They're growing their own giant tomato sauce garden right beside my own plot: it doesn't get much more local or authentic than that!


  1. Holla Steve! Thanks for the mentions! Indeed it is a giant plot of tomato sauce right there beside you! and thanks for outing Greg and his Beastie Boys obbsession...not that it was a secret! See you on Sunday at the "happenening" at Monforte? -Yva

  2. Hmmm for some reason only half the post can be seen. I tried reloading but still same.