In this frenzied, fast-paced world, sometimes the best thing to do is enjoy the simpler things in life.
The Casale family has been serving old-school Italian fare at Il Paesano Pizzeria and Restaurant in Etobicoke since 1959.
That’s right – 1959. To give you some perspective: back then, a burger was 40 cents, the most popular TV show was “Gunsmoke” and the average personal income was $1,672 annually.
For over 50 years, the family has continued to serve simple Italian classics where menu prices are still considerably low – ranging from $4 for a half salad to $29.80 for the largest pizza they’ve got (24 slices).
The restaurant – started by Emilio, Alex, Nino, and Tony (the original cook) – is still family-owned and operated. In fact, most days you’ll still find Nino in the dining room and kitchen.
The family recipes haven’t changed much, if at all. The pizza dough and sauce is made in-house daily from the original recipe.
Il Paesano has been the recipient of the The Etobicoke Guardian Reader’s Choice Platinum Award for their pizza for the last 15 years running. The reason for their continued success? Their crust is in between thick and thin, and ingredients are cooked to slightly well done – longer than most franchises. This is thanks to their incredible conveyor oven that cooks pizza within five minutes.
And speaking of fast, the restaurant has been doing quick delivery since the day they opened. You can get a pizza door-to-door in just 20 minutes, ten less than the big chains (note: within the delivery area – Prince Edward to Square on Hurontario).
You can also request thin or thick crust, in addition to extra sauce and cooked to well done, all at no extra cost.
Head to the small takeout window near the back for walk-in specials as well: Pepperoni Slice ($3 + tax) and 14” Medium Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza ($9.20 + tax).
In addition to traditional pizzas and pastas, selections include Veal Parmgiana, sandwiches, salads, seafood, and oven-baked chicken wings and panzerotti (there’s no deep fryer on site). Dishes are straightforward – no fussy garnishes or presentation, no complicated flavours, just dishes made with simple, fresh ingredients. Like “Nonna” would make, if you had one.
Time for a change
The last renovation took place in 1987. So in addition to the old school dishes, you also get a setting that takes you back. Way back – think: red and white tablecloths, cloth napkins fanned on the table, tile floors, wood-panelled walls and teeny, though well-stocked, bar.
With new condos going up next door, the restaurant is set to get a facelift in the next year or two.
Why some things should remain the same
Part of the restaurant’s charm is that things have stayed much the same. When’s the last time you saw a whole menu section dedicated to just spaghetti? With seven selections of veal? Pizzas arrive to your table on a silver stand like the old days. Meat dishes are served with your choice of salad or spaghetti. Servers know your name and usual orders. And portions are so big, leftovers are inevitable.
Whether you’re popping in for a quick lunch, settling in for a relaxing dinner, or getting your meal delivered, Il Paesano is a reminder that while new restaurants come and go, this traditional fare continues to please the crowd, no matter what trends are in fashion.
From the simple Italian food to the setting and service, customers return decade after decade, and often with their kids and grandkids in tow.
It just feels like home.
Il Paesano Pizzeria and Restaurant (396 Browns Line) is open seven days a week, with dine-in, takeout and delivery available.
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