Dining In: Lil Z’s Pizza delivers the basics, shines on the creativity

High quality ingredients and inventive combinations put this pizzeria firmly on the map

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Pizza Lil Z
45 Clarence St., 613-860-3333, lilzpizza.com
Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., closed on Monday
Price: pizzas between $15 and $20
Access: Walk to front door

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Late last year, when the co-owner of the King Eddy restaurant told me that a new, but unspecified business would replace him at his Clarence Street address, I should have guessed that the newcomer would be a pizza restaurant.

Common sense and grumbling stomachs tell us that pizza and the pandemic — which isn’t quite over yet, despite many pious wishes — go together like lockdowns and take-out dinners. Additionally, it has been said that a well-run pizzeria operating with reasonable overhead can generate good profits, as ingredient and labor costs need not be too exorbitant.

So last week, I said hello to Lil Z’s Pizza, which recently opened where King Eddy, its sister restaurant, used to be. The King Eddy moved next door to the space that until early 2020 was Share, and was more famously the Empire Grill, a ByWard Market mainstay, for nearly two decades.

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Lil Z’s is currently open for takeout, delivery and patio dining. For my two takeout orders, the pizzeria always made pizzas with distinctive, pleasing crusts that were thin but at the same time robust and fluffy, less Neapolitan and more North American.

How chewy were the Lil Z pizzas we brought home?

“The crust made my jaw work. I feel tired,” said one of my companions.

“Was it worth it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. He then joked that the Ottawa Hospital would soon be diagnosing people with Pizza Jaw.

This is an exaggeration. But that’s not one to say that the Lil Z pizzas we enjoyed the most—four out of five, basically—were very good.

The basics were done well. The high quality ingredients of the Margherita pizza ($16) shined. Likewise, the pepperoni pizza ($18.50) looked and tasted like pepperoni from the top drawer curling up in a small cup, as if to hold more jerky.

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Among the more creative pizzas, we really liked the eponymous Lil Z ($20), a vegetarian pizza that delivered a cavalcade of flavors thanks to ricotta, garlic, red onion, chili flakes, basil and lemon zest, plus zucchini, on an “all bagel crust that also had hints of warm honey, the pizza topping of the moment. My only complaint would be a request for more ricotta. But other than that , the Lil Z was a pizza that then generated food cravings.

While the “Pro” pizza ($20) takes its name from its smoked provolone, it’s its crumbled sausage and especially its mix of different mushrooms that won us over.

I can’t remember if I’ve ever weighed in on the pineapple on pizza controversy. If I had been asked, I would have sat on the fence rather agnostically. Lil Z’s version ($20) caramelizes his pineapple and opts for bacon over ham. I’ll just say that we didn’t really like all three of them, even though the other two tasters were initially disbelievers.

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A celebrity chef from Ottawa once told me that if you go to what I’ll just call the great Canadian pizza chain X, you should stick to the pizza rather than go for, say, the roast beef sandwich . I don’t know if this wisdom can be universally applied, but I can say that Lil Z’s arugula salad was okay and the Caesar salad, although heavy with bacon, would have included anchovies had I been consulted .

While Lil Z’s website says his drink deals are coming soon, his clover.com online ordering system lets you have Miller beers and a hard cider. Snobs that we are, we are waiting for wine and cocktail news.

The past few years have seen the happy arrival of a few worthy pizza pioneers in Ottawa, each offering something different, from Heartbreakers Pizza on Parkdale Avenue to Giulia on Elgin Street to Farinella and Pi Co locations. You can add Lil Z’s Pizza to this eminent list.

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