Blondie’s Dreams of Pizza
Leslieville's latest attraction has pizza down to a science.
February 13, 2019
Pizza is chemistry: a confluence of variables that can stretch beyond human control. The humidity in the air, the marriage of ingredients, the precise temperature of an oven, the timing of preparation and baking, all contribute to a fluid process that’s as much about technique as it is about creativity. When Chef Matt Blondin embarked on his latest project – a humble takeout counter on a residential strip of Dundas Street East – he couldn’t have imagined the heady musings that would emerge. Now on the brink of launching its second location in under a year, Blondie’s has pizza down to a science.
“We toyed with pizza over at Doria, when it was launched years ago,” Matt recounts while prepping a lunchtime pie. “It was always a fun project for us.” Along with the rest of the Food Dudes brain trust, Matt had conceptualized pizza possibilities and tested a slew of recipes over the years. When a former nail spa in the heart of Leslieville went up for sale, he came back to the idea with renewed energy and jumped at the opportunity.
“We wanted to do something different, something cool that will hopefully have a long life span,” Matt says of the concerted approach to launching a casual joint. The small menu at Blondie’s has undergone some seasonal changes, with the occasional appearance of special recipes and the recent offer of topping selection augmenting a handful of standard pies. “We’re gradually growing and people have been very understanding of that,” Matt explains when asked about the absence of single slices for sale. At the moment, the laid back chef is happy to remain patient at his East end flagship.
Meanwhile, a newly hired team is in training for the launch of a second Blondie’s location at Commerce Court, set to unveil soon. The downtown lunch crowd is different from Leslieville’s clientele, presenting the chance to explore new concepts and serving styles as the business expands to a market that’s rife with ordinary options and ready for something fresh. Set to serve 8-inch made-to-order pizzas in five minutes, the results from the Commerce Court venture may say a lot about the brand’s long-term outlook.
Speaking of the brand, many have noted the magnetism of Blondie’s SoCal-reminiscent pink façade within the otherwise pedestrian rhythm of Dundas Street’s urban backdrop, and its beaconing pop art vibe. Local street artist Ben Johnston is the man behind this playful identity, having taken the broad directive of a pink theme to an emphatically fun level with a mouth-watering logo that suits the restaurant’s airy atmosphere. The space is welcoming, un-stuffy and easy to inhabit, like the well-appointed living room of an engaging friend. Assuming that friend had a knack for next-level pizzas, of course.
Blondie’s relies on simple but intensely vetted components to produce these dishes, using high-protein flour, California tomatoes and top quality, not-too-salty cheeses for its essential trio of ingredients. Having visited the famed Di Fara Pizza on a trip to Brooklyn, Matt observed the customs of the shop’s owner, who is rumoured to have personally made every single pie ever served there. With this superb routine as a guideline and the freedom to establish his own style, Matt felt good about the chances to set Blondie’s apart from Toronto’s existing pizza options. “We try to take something people are familiar with and give it our own flavour,” he says. “That’s really the Food Dudes’ approach in general.”
While he is in many ways the face of the place, even so far as to have it named after him, Matt stresses the team effort that has lifted Blondie’s to its promising status. The restaurant’s baker and kitchen manager do much of the work and deserve much of the credit, he notes generously. The kitchen and counter staff contribute vitally to a cause that’s not about any individual player, leaving Matt the room to continually toil away, conceptualizing menu moves as the year progresses.
“We’ll be back to full hours seven days a week, once the summer comes,” Matt forecasts while pulling a hot pizza from the oven. Blondie’s homemade soft serve will reappear along with the warmer weather, which will undoubtedly necessitate further tweaking of the dough as the humidity rises. Like the potential to create a stir at Commerce Court, and whatever other possible futures await, we’ll just have to see what chemistry has in store.