Lil Z’s Pizza brings its mix of Neapolitan and New York styles to the ByWard Market – Apartment613
There’s a new pizzeria in town! Lil Z’s Pizza in the ByWard Market joins several recently opened pizzerias such as Giulia, Heartbreakers, Pi Co, Pizza Nerds and Farinella. Due to the pandemic, restaurants have had to rely heavily on the take-out model over the past couple of years, and those orders still play an important role for many restaurants in the city. Pizzerias are doing much better than many other restaurants with a take-out model, which is perhaps why Ottawa has seen such an influx of pizzerias in recent years. Lil Z’s, the newest addition to the city’s pizza scene, opened its doors only a month ago and is already receiving accolades, carving out its place among Ottawa’s pizza purveyors.
Lil Z’s is owned by the same group of owners as its neighbor, The King Eddy diner. Co-owner Johnny Bonney told me that the road to Lil Z’s started when spots either side of King Eddy’s became vacant. The owner immediately started thinking about how to use this space, whether to expand or open a new restaurant next door. Bonney said that “[he] and her partner wanted to use one of the spaces to make pizza, a food [they] felt very familiar with and wanted to explore more on a commercial level. Eventually the owner decided to move King Eddy’s to a larger space at the corner of York Street and Parent Avenue and opened a pizzeria in the old neighborhood.
When Bonney discussed this new adventure with friends in Florida, they referred him to their nephew in Toronto, Onoffrio Monti, a chef trained in making classic Italian-style pizzas. Monti joined the project as head chef, bringing his expertise and knowledge. The next step was to find an oven, and the property landed on a type of hot stones that uses a granite pizza stone treadmill. Such an oven is a departure from the traditional wood-fired ovens that Monti was used to, but Bonney saw it as an opportunity to create his own niche in the city’s pizza market.
“With Monti’s Neapolitan technique and a more North American cooking method, we created a hybrid between Neapolitan pizza and New York pizza,” Bonney said.
The restaurant was plagued with numerous construction delays, but Bonney considered them a blessing in disguise. “The delays allowed us to sharpen our pencils,” he said. They were able to use the extra time to experiment with various flavor combinations and perfect their menu, eventually landing on their current creations, which include seven varieties of red pizza, four white pizzas, spicy wings, meatballs, parmesan eggplant and salads. Bonney recommends the “pro pizza” which includes smoked provolone cheese, sausage, three varieties of mushrooms and chives, and the “lil z pizza” which includes ricotta cheese, garlic, zucchini, red onion, chili flakes, lemon zest, and warm homemade honey on a whole bagel crust.
When I asked Bonney what kind of atmosphere he wanted to create in the restaurant, he said he wanted Lil Z’s to be “a comforting, cozy, welcoming neighborhood place where people can call themselves home.” Lil Z’s has just introduced a drinks menu that features cocktails, wine and local draft beers, while the pizza menu will be updated seasonally to keep things engaging and fresh.
I’m very excited to see where Lil Z’s is going as he settles in, settles into the new space, and carves out a niche for himself among Ottawa’s pizza purveyors.
Lil Z’s Pizza is located at 45 Clarence Street in the ByWard Market. They are open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday.