We Asked! A Hungry Person’s Guide to Pizza Downtown.
If pizza isn’t the world’s most universally-loved food, we’re not sure what is. Maybe burgers give it a good run for its money? Maybe. And these days there are more kinds of pizza readily available than ever before. How is a hungry person with a wallet full of money to spend and a craving in the belly that only cheesy, tomato-y, chewy crust deliciousness will satisfy supposed to know where to turn?
We turned to four Downtown Kelowna pizza experts to help guide us through the tasty dilemma of what kind of pizza to eat next.
Please tell us who you are, where you work, and what style of pizza it is you make here?
My name is Bernie Wilson, Bordello’s Italian Pizzeria on 1481 Water Street, and we do a Neapolitan pizza.
I am Stephen Hein. I work at the The Curious Café at 1423 Ellis Street, and we do a classic forno style pizza.
Karyn MacKenzie, DunnEnzies Pizza Co. at 1559 Ellis Street. We make New York style pizza.
I’m Tony Katsabanis from Antico Pizza Napoletana on 347 Bernard Avenue, and the style that we make is Neapolitan pizza.
How do you cook your pizza?
Bernie: We cook our pizza on a gas-fired, stone oven. It’s the same cooking principle as a wood-fired oven although we use gas. The dome is the same, and the stone is the same.
Stephen: Straight into the forno oven. We use classic apple wood that we get in from a supplier in town here. About four minutes max. The oven is perfect at 600°F. The crust gets nice and brown and you only have to turn it once.
Karyn: Everything's made from scratch. The pizza is cooked in a standard convection-style deck oven.
Tony: We cook it in a wood burning oven that I had specially made in Naples. It averages around 900 degrees and the pizzas cook in between 60 and 90 seconds.
What’s your most popular pizza? What makes it so popular?
Bernie: The Bordello's Bernardo pizza for sure. Sweet Italian sausage, roasted red pepper, caramelized onions, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. It tastes really good, but also I think the ingredients that are on it are appealing to people when they read the menu.
Stephen: The Soppressata. It's the perfect blend of everything. It has spicy salami, pickled fennel, and a ton of cheese. So it has all the fatty, all the sour, and all the spice. It's got everything you need in a bite of food all on a pizza.
Karyn: The Fugh-gedda-bout-it (Spicy genoa, capicollo, Italian sausage, banana peppers). I think people enjoy the unique toppings. It’s something a little bit different than what you usually see and the quality of the meats is way higher than what you typically see in a fast food type environment.
Tony: I would say it's a tie between the Margherita because that's the classic of all pizzas and the Carnivale, which is a play on words, it's a meat type of pizza with different types of salamis and sausages. The Margherita is popular because it's a very light pizza, it's only 800 calories and it's the original pizza, the first one recorded in history, and it's also a perfect balance of flavours. The Carnivale is for people that like a lot of Italian cold cuts.
Should a crust be thick or thin?
Bernie: Should be thin.
Stephen: Thin. In my opinion thin. The more bread you have on there, the more heavy it feels and you’re gonna feel heavy after eating it. I think that's what makes some pizzas sit differently or feel different than ours do. The light crust is nice and fresh, and it feels a lot healthier to eat. And even if it isn’t necessarily, it feels better.
Karyn (pictured): The crust should be however the person likes them. Because we make everything from scratch in house, each pizza is created individually. It's really up to the customer. Lots of people prefer thin and we do it to order. Our standard crust is normally quite thick around the edge. It's thin on the inside thick on the outside: a New York style.
Tony: I don't think there's a right answer to that. I think all kinds of pizzas are good. I love Chicago deep dish pizza. It really depends on the type of pizza you're trying to make. My pizza is a very thin pizza in the middle, although it does have the airy crust around it. Deep dish pizza can’t be like that. It’s really what you’re trying to do. There’s no right answer.
Why do people toss the dough up in the air?
Bernie: When you spin it, the centrifugal force evens out the thickness of the crust.
Stephen: It’s mostly for show, and it depends on how thick your dough is, it’s a lot easier when you have tougher dough than what we use. Ours is a little soft. It’s too easy to catch your finger and the tip will poke through. It's a nice way to get an even stretch on it instead trying to do it on the table. It takes a lot of practice though; it's not as easy as some of them make it look.
Karyn: Part of it is just for show to be honest, but it helps with the stretch and the gluten. It makes for a more consistent crust, less air bubbles. You get that nice crispiness and chew that people look for in a pizza crust. That comes from working the dough like that.
Tony: Well. It's a way of stretching the dough without crushing the edges of the crust. Neapolitans don't do this. They have a very special technique they call the Neapolitan slap that’s hard to explain, you have to see it.
I’ve just arrived from another planet. I don’t know what pizza is. What should be my first pizza?
Bernie: It should be a Bordello's Bernardo pizza for sure.
Stephen: I would say the Margherita. The classic Margherita. It’s the perfect example of the classic forno pizza. If you want to see the difference between that and something you can get elsewhere. It shows you the lighter approach to toppings where there aren’t a lot of them, but they’re really high quality ingredients that meld together perfectly.
Karyn: You should have classic pepperoni or our Carmella which is just fresh mozza, tomato and basil. Classic.
Tony: One hundred percent I would say Neapolitan pizza and that's because it's the first pizza, which were actually first called pitas. That’s where the word comes from: pitas. When Italy unified as a country, Queen Margherita was traveling through Italy, and she wanted to go to Naples to try the famous pitas. The baker there, his wife gave him a suggestion to make pizza in the colours of the new Italian flag, which was red, white and green. So that’s where he combined the tomatoes, the basil and the cheese. That’s why the name of the pizza is Margherita. So if you’re from another planet, you should try the origins of it and take it from there and see how creativity changed the way pizza is made. The traditional New York pizza is kind of a version of the Neapolitan pizza. They were trying to make Neapolitan, but they had different ingredients, so it morphed into what it is. Delicious, just a different way of doing it
What’s the most pizza you’ve seen someone eat?
Bernie: I don't know probably quite a bit, maybe like 8 pieces or something like that.
Stephen: Maybe me? I was young and watching Milo and Otis with my family and we ordered a bunch of large pizzas. I ate at least one and a half of them myself. I was maybe 10.
Karyn: We had two ladies, both I’d say their seventies. And every Saturday morning they would come and sit at the front window and they would each eat two slices as they had coffee. And they would chat for like an hour and a half. They were small, small ladies and our slices are big. So maybe not the most pizza I somebody eat, but I was impressed by them.
Tony: That's hard to say. Maybe two?
Is it possible to have too much cheese?
Bernie: Yes. Yeah because it's only one ingredient, and it's not even necessarily the best ingredient. It certainly doesn't provide the most flavour.
Stephen: That's actually a hot topic around here. Our bartender loves a classic cheese pizza. He’s not looking for a lot of complicated toppings. Just loves his cheese. So I will admit that we enjoy a nice, cheese-heavy pizza every now and then when it’s just he and I on shift, even though that’s not necessarily our style here.
Karyn: Yes. Yes, it is possible. If you use a good quality cheese, you don't need as much. The big pizza chains hide behind lots of cheese because they use an inexpensive product and what it does is create kind of an environment where moisture can't escape out from underneath the cheese, so that's where you get that soggy crust.
Tony: Yes. Especially when you're dealing with a Neapolitan pizza and it's a very fine balance of flavors. We're using fresh cheese and it’s a little more moist and creamy. If you put too much, it becomes very wet. Everything about a Neapolitan pizza is very delicate, the dough, the San Marzano tomatoes; if you over-do any of the 3 or 4 ingredients you throw the whole thing out of balance. You lose the flavour. It’s not about volume.
In your opinion, is there a topping that should never be allowed on a pizza under any circumstance?
Stephen: That's really hard for me to say because honestly I’ve been surprised. We have a new menu we're introducing and we're gonna be doing a potato pizza. It's like super-thin sliced flash fried potatoes and red onion. It sounds really simple, but it's delicious.
Karyn: Pineapple and anchovies are both love ‘em or hate ‘em toppings. Personally chicken, to me, doesn't belong on pizza. That's my own personal preference, although we make lots of great pizzas with chicken on them. Again, it’s a totally personal preference. What you think should go on a pizza and what I think you should go on a pizza are different.
Tony: Well, as long as it's edible I don't think there is. No I wouldn't say that at all, I'd say that you should be able to put anything on it.
What’s your position on pineapple on pizza?
Bernie: I'm okay with it. For one, I think ham and pineapple are an awesome combination even though it's not the kind of pizza we do. It's not something I'm opposed to.
Stephen: I like it. When I was young, I wasn't big on it. But in my opinion if you're doing a pineapple pizza swap out the marinara for barbecue sauce.
Karyn: I am a pro pineapple person. I am pro one hundred percent. Sweet with heat. If we use pineapple, we try to counter it, so we’ll use a spicy Genoa and maybe banana peppers, so you get something a little sweet, a little savoury and spicy. Similar to what they do in Asian cooking to be honest. It makes a nice blend.
Tony: I'm a pineapple fan. The Neapolitan pizza police might not like to hear that. I don't put pineapple on my pizza, but what I do is take a fresh pineapple and make a reduction out of it, and we do it like that.
Is pizza a hand food or a knife and fork food?
Bernie: I think the style that we do should be a hand food because it tastes better when your lips are touching the pizza itself; the crust and the char on the bottom, and the oils in the meats actually taste better if you pick it up and eat it with your hand. But if it was a deep dish pizza I’d probably suggests you go with a fork and knife.
Stephen: The first time I came to Curious with a roommate to check it out (before I worked here), I ordered the Prosciutto pizza and they brought it with a fork and knife, and I thought, “Oh, I guess that’s how they do it here.” So we tried it that way, but gave up about halfway and switched to hands. It’s a finger food. I don't care how fancy the place looks, stuff that pizza in your face with your hands and lick your fingers. That’s how it's supposed to be eaten.
Karyn: PIZZA IS HAND FOOD ONLY (caps by Karyn’s request).
Tony: Neapolitan pizza is a knife and fork food. And a hand food, actually. In Naples we don't cut the pizza into slices, we eat it with a knife and fork or we fold the whole thing. Libretto style, like a wallet is what that means. So, the answer is both.
When was the last time you ordered a delivery pizza at home? What was it?
Bernie: So long ago I don't even remember.
Stephen: It was actually a couple of weeks ago when one of my roommates moved out. We all work night shifts and we get home at 1130pm - 12:00pm and delivery is what’s available, but I like that kind of pizza too.
Karyn: Last week. After seven years of doing pizza, I’ll be honest maybe once a month we have pizza. And I love delivery pizza. You know, there's some about sitting in the comfort of your own home and having a nice fresh pie delivered to the door. Can't beat it.
Tony: I don't even remember the last time; probably not in a decade.
If there was an oven disaster and you had to eat a Downtown pizza other than your own, what would it be?
Bernie: Curious Cafe. They make a nice pizza over there too.
Stephen: I would say Bordello's. Just the feel of the place really makes it happen for me, the whole atmosphere and the classic authentic Italian idea. I’d go with that.
Karyn: Although we make a New York style pizza, I am a fan of a very classic traditional Neapolitan style pizza. They do a good one at Antico Pizza Napoletana on Bernard.
Tony: I think I would go to DunnEnzies. It's a very different style than mine and I like to eat at different variations on the theme. I don't like to be single minded in my choices in food. So yeah and they make a very good pizza. It was the first pizza I had in Kelowna when I was building this restaurant actually.
Last question, you’re trapped on a desert island and you can only bring one pizza, what is it?
Bernie: I would probably bring the Bernardo
Stephen: On a desert island, I wouldn't want something meaty and cheesy, so I’d pick our Harvest pizza. Our Harvest pizza has onion jam, chicken, tree fruits like apples and pears, spiced walnuts, and arugula with balsamic glaze. Nice and fresh. Kind of almost a tropical feel.
Karyn: I'm gonna go with spinach, mushroom and feta. A little veg to help fend off the scurvy.
Tony: Definitely Neapolitan pizza. That's a tough one. I would put some meat on it for extra protein. I know: Mozzarella di bufala, Prosciutto di Parma and arugula. That would be my pizza. On a Neapolitan crust.
You’re probably hungry by now, so head on over to whichever of these four places sounded best to you:
OR try one our other amazing pizza places Downtown Kelowna
Boston Pizza, 545 Harvey Avenue
Freshslice Pizza, 227 Bernard Avenue
City Pizza, 1675 Pandosy Street
If you’re still not a pizza person, try one of Downtown Kelowna’s more than 100 restaurants. You’ll find a full listing here: https://www.downtownkelowna.com/what-to-do/eat/
If there’s something you’d like us to ask, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviews were condensed by the Downtown Kelowna Association