When my fine editor suggested a takeout pizza and wine-pairing column, he didn’t have to ask twice. Two of my favourite things together, and an excuse to invite some good friends to help with the hard work.
For this project, we decided to focus on our favourite take-out/delivery spots. But we still had to decide which pizzas to try. We challenged ourselves to find pizzas that work with wines other than fruity reds, which is when the real fun began. White wine with your pizza? Rosé? Sparkling?
Alexandra’s Pizza. A locally owned chain, Alexandra’s has eight locations around the city. It also brings back-late night memories for me, as I visited the Queen Street location on more than a few occasions in my formative years, during walks home on the weekend. The pepperoni and cheese is super popular for a reason. Nice medium-thick and crispy crust, with lots of toppings. This type of basic pizza is very versatile with red wine. The meaty topping calls out for a wine with a bit of weight. We had a beefy Cote du Rhone blend, with a lot of Syrah in it, and it worked well. Other choices include most Italian wines (especially the Chianti we had), or Valpolicella or a southern Italian red.
Bramosa Pizza. Bramosa has become a Quinpool Road hot spot, thanks to its signature thin-crust pizzas. This seemed like a great place to order the traditional Margherita pizza. What could be better than a thin crust with sweet tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic, basil, and bocconcini? Our group of five tasters split on this one. Some liked the New Zealand Pinot Noir, and others the French Cote du Rhone. But everyone agreed that the Chianti worked best with this style of pizza. The fresh fruity acidity of the wine balanced with the sauce, and cut through the cheese. The dry rosé wine was a pleasant surprise: an unusual but excellent pairing.
Salvatore’s Pizzaiolo. A Hydrostone institution, Salvatore’s owners are real Italian traditionalists, to the point that they refuse to put more than four ingredients on their pizzas. We knew we could get creative here, so we ordered the Bianco in Stephano (four types of cheese including Ricotta, tomatoes, onions, herbs, and a garlic infused crust. But no tomato sauce!) First we tried the Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, which worked well with the fresh acidity balancing all the cheese. Sparkling wine also tasted fantastic with the toppings. Try Pinot Grigio or even unoaked Chardonnay. If you want something local, try Nova 7 or a Tidal Bay white.
Tomavinos. After a brief hiatus, Tomavinos is back, now located on the waterfront beside Garrison Brewery. This time, we customized our own vegetarian combo with roasted red peppers, sautéed onions, tomatoes, and spinach. The result was a pie bursting with flavour that knocked the Chianti out of the park, also pairing well with the rosé. In a pinch, it could work with a bigger white wine (like Viognier). The Cote du Rhone red proved a bit overpowering, but the Pinot Noir was a nice match.
Of course, this article just scratches the surface. Halifax has lots of great pizza spots and we only focused on a few of our favourite take-out joints. The big lesson is that there’s no need to bust the bank when buying pizza wine. Focus on lighter styles for vegetarian options and save the bigger reds for the meat lovers pizza. If you want to splurge, buy Italian, and you can’t go wrong.