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Man I miss the Big Slice sometimes...


Staff member
The important questions: How to say goodbye to the late Big Slice, Canada’s finest pizzeria

Calum Marsh | February 3, 2017 1:28 PM ET


Mike Faille/National Post

The Big Slice is – or rather was – a humble pizzeria on Yonge Street in Toronto, just north of Dundas, between big Gerrard and little Elm. It closed this week, forced out of business in deference to the arrival of a condo.

Gentrification has claimed more distinguished casualties in Toronto over the years. But this is the sort of mainstay you expect to never leave. I loved The Big Slice. The city is a diminished place without it. The Big Slice may not have looked like much to the hungry passerby – the unlovely red sign with its block letters and peppermint swirl, the hand-written pick-up specials taped to the inside of the window, the concrete doorstep in sullen disrepair – but delight awaited the undaunted inside.

You’d step into The Big Slice and say good afternoon to the man at the counter, who welcomed you wordlessly, eager to fulfill a lunch order that pleasantries would only delay. He heaved your pepperoni slice into an oven to be reheated. A pair of his colleagues stirred vats of pizza sauce with large metal whisks; another had his family on speakerphone and spoke to them in Farsi while kneading circles of floured dough. A half-eaten tray of nanaimo bars rested atop a row of Monster energy drinks in a refrigerator against the wall. Were they for sale? Nobody could tell. A tall man with dark sunglasses and a long goatee ordered a piece of lasagna. “Make it a big one!” he’d insist.

It was difficult – though not unpleasant – to eat a big slice at The Big Slice. The name was not misleading: these slices really were enormous. So you’d look around for guidance and instruction. Some swivelled and folded, or clutched two-handedly and gingerly nibbled; some attempted to maintain decorum with a plastic knife and fork, while others unashamedly plunged face-first into their plate. It would occur to you that this big slice would be considerably easier to eat if it were divided in the middle. But then it wouldn’t have been a big slice: it would have been two regular slices. And novelty was surely worth some embarrassment.

A menagerie of pizza lovers always crowded out the dining room. There were middle-managers in made-to-measure suits and construction workers in shiny orange vests. There were the conspicuously wealthy and the evidently homeless. A middle-aged woman dipped her head to drink a Diet Coke from a straw as she read a Penguin paperback. A cluster of teens joked and howled nearby. The man with the big lasagna lumbered back toward the counter and slammed down an open palm. “Needs more cheese, man!” He was patiently obliged. Everybody, plainly, was welcome at The Big Slice. And nobody would ever feel superior to the pizza.

The dining room’s decor was as eclectic as the clientele. Indeed, a bored diner, her reading material misplaced or smartphone’s battery carelessly drained, could easily find a meal’s worth of substitute entertainment in perusing The Big Slice’s interior design. Here was some of what adorned the restaurant’s walls: a framed Man Ray print, a gold star made of tinsel, a poster advertising an exhibition of Piet Mondrian watercolours at the Baltimore Museum of Art, a print-out advertising fixed investment services, a picture of Elvis Presley, years-old Christmas lights, a photograph of the Stanley Cup, a poster for the film Chernobyl Diaries, and a piece of computer paper that bore the message “FREE WIFI NOW @ The Big Slice! pse. ASK for P.W.” (sic).

This somewhat indiscriminate aspect seemed in keeping with the character of the neighbourhood. Go ahead and stand for a moment at the corner of Yonge and Gerrard. You’d soon see the lunacy that still gravitates there: the mad grannies and the street preachers, the curbside crustpunks and the yawping beggars.

Gentrification had for some time been imposed upon the intersection, at great expense and with delusional positivity: notice the jet-black Starbucks and the gleaming fitness centre, the coffee shops and condominiums, shooting up through the cracks like blades of grass. But it wouldn’t take. The neighbourhood – and The Big Slice – defied reform.

To the immediate right of the Big Slice was the Doner Kebab House and the VIP Billiard Club, and something called Nouri Extension – “We Do Cellphone Repair,” a paper sign taped to its window advertised – where a wrestling-themed beach towel, faded from months in the sun, hung above the door bearing a price tag in felt tip, just $4.99. To its left lingered a deserted bubble tea café.

Elsewhere remains for now the right sort of company: the Cash Money and the nail salon, the waffle house and the Evergreen mission. All of them stand closed today, shuttered to make room for another condo. It’s a block of ghost shops and shadow businesses. But you can sense what the investors didn’t: it’s ungentrifiable. One more skyscraper won’t change anything.

Before I moved to Toronto, three and a half years ago, an American friend who visited the city from Cape Cod every autumn spoke of The Big Slice as a landmark – a culinary institution whose vast isosceles triangles of dough and sauce and cheese loomed imperiously over the local dining scene. Then I arrived and was swiftly disabused. Torontonians did not, I was surprised to learn, regard The Big Slice with any special reverence. Nor did they need to. It endured anyway, unaffected by the vicissitudes of fashion. People loved The Big Slice. It was a fixture of the city. It ought to have quietly delighted us forever.

from the national post
The important questions: How to say goodbye to the late Big Slice, Canada's finest pizzeria

Stop Bill C-10


TRIBE Member
It's gone?!? Yeesh, I won't recognize the city at all, and it's only been...2 years?(maybe 3 since last visit).