Salvatore’s 5541 Young Street, 455-1133
Halifax has tonnes of pizza joints—places where you can get a humble grease wheel with basic toppings or pick up a late-night slice big enough to wear as a cape. But when it comes to naming the best pizza in town, we fixate on thin crusts and homemade sauce, fresh, inventive ingredients and lots of garlic. The battle for the best belongs to two pizzerias—Salvatore’s and Tomasino’s. Primacy switches hands as often as money for pizza does. This year, Salvatore’s has prevailed.
Once upon a time in the late 1980s, Salvatore’s was a small pizzeria on South Street, right next door to where Tomasino’s is now. In those days, Salvatore’s was owned by Salvatore Renaldo (his friends call him Sal) and Garry Tanner. Chris Cuddihy, the present owner of Salvatore’s, remembers the early days. He was a cook at the original restaurant for about two years. “They spent months researching the best recipe before they opened,” says Cuddihy., “The recipe actually came from Sal’s grandmother in New York. Sal had a great appreciation for the New York Italian-style pizza.”
The restaurant started out small but soon expanded into the Cafe Flamingo. When the lease came up on the original location, Renaldo and Tanner didn’t bother to renew it. “Sal was always much more interested in the product than in the actual restaurant itself,” says Cuddihy.
After the original Salvatore’s closed, and the Flamingo shut down, Cuddihy resurrected the pizzaria in the Hydrostone Market in 1994. “I got permission from Sal to keep the name and the recipe—it was a handshake agreement,” says Cuddihy. “My end of the deal was that I not alter the recipes.” And so far, he’s kept his end of the bargain. “Sure, we’ve made some improvements and purchased new equipment, but we haven’t altered the recipe.”
Cuddihy says he’s certain he’s got the best pizza in town, and offers a helpful hint. “The best way to find out if a place has the best pizza is to order it plain. You want to be able to taste the sauce, the cheese and the crust. You want to make sure the flavours are well balanced.”
Speaking of other people’s pizzas, Tom of Tomasino’s fame has kind words for this year’s Best Pizza place. “I used to buy pizza from them, they’ve got very good pizza,” he says, “I love their crust.”
Tom also loves his new pizza oven, which he describes as the “Cadillac of pizza ovens.” It’s a rotating convection oven, the kind “that’s featured in all the gourmet magazines,” Tom says. Perhaps next year his new oven will be enough to bring the vote back to Tomasino’s. But for now, Salvatore’s reigns supreme.