Nick-N-Willy’s is the first Atlantic Canadian outlet of a franchise that’s carved a niche in the crowded pizza market by perfecting a “Take-N-Bake” version of its product: The convenience is that you can take it home and bake it whenever you want. You can also eat in and there’s home delivery.
Eating in on Quinpool means you can enjoy a beer with your food since Nick-N-Willy’s is licensed. The long, narrow restaurant has a counter with one end for taking orders and bar stools along it where you can sit and eat. A handful of tables in the dining room, a kitchen and a very clean washroom take up the rest of the space. The menu is posted overhead and there seems to be an endless variety of pizzas or you can build your own. There are also wraps and salads.
We eat the Aegean pizza hot from Nick-N-Willy’s pizza oven. The Aegean is covered with an olive oil glaze (no tomato sauce), mozzarella and feta cheese, garlic, spinach, sundried tomatoes and oregano. There is plenty of cheese, fresh spinach leaves, not that much garlic and no real oregano flavour. I would have enjoyed more sundried tomatoes, but this is still a darn good pie. Not surprisingly, the thin crust is excellent. Nick’s says the dough is made fresh daily in small batches, with a secret blend of flours.
I have to wonder how good that crust will be in a home-baked pizza—it’s hard to replicate crust without a pizza oven and baking stone, but I’m sure up for trying. Anything has to be better than supermarket take-homes, which tend to be either soggy or cardboard-like.
Off we go with our Take-N-Bake, a medium (12”) Canadian Classic. It comes packed on a disposable cooking plate, shrink-wrapped and with clear, simple instructions for getting the best results at home.
I follow those instructions exactly and end up with a very good pizza. (If only the instructions to putting together my new barbecue had been written as well).
The crust is not quite as crisp as the one baked in the restaurant, but it’s better than anything I’ve brought home from anywhere else. The Canadian Classic comes with the made-fresh-daily tomato sauce (“We don’t even have a freezer in our store!” the website for the franchise proclaims), a mix of mozzarella, cheddar and provolone cheeses, back bacon and Genoa salami. Although skimpy on the excellent salami, there is plenty of the back bacon and cheese and the tomato sauce is delicious.
For dessert, we have the Take-N-Bake Cookie ($4.59), a giant chocolate-chunk cookie big enough for four servings. Just like the pizza, the baking instructions are on the top of the package and it comes out of the oven exactly as promised—“warm and wonderful.” One taste of the freshly baked cookie, chocolate chunks still melted and gooey-good, and the cookie that looked big enough for four now seems scarcely enough for two.
Nick-N-Willy’s is great in that along with the usual offerings there are some interesting ingredients on the menu that you don’t typically see anywhere else, such as pine-nut pesto sauce, artichoke hearts and T’sang chicken in peanut sauce to name a few. Pizza is pretty subjective and I don’t know that I’d call it the best pizza in town. But I do like the Take-N-Bake option for its ease and quality and nothing can beat that giant cookie.
Nick-N-Willy’s 6169 Quinpool Road425-2222Sun-Thur 11am to 10pmFri-Sat 11am to 2am
Liz Feltham, now available in the comfort of your own home: www.foodcritic.ca