Nova Ristorante: Pizza Nova's first full-service restaurant

n 1962, Michael Primucci was racing cars at Mosport. He has sustained a broken leg, and flipped the car one too many times.  Searching for a less dangerous venture, he thought of opening a pizza place in Scarborough with his four brothers – much to his parents relief (no more broken bones).

He had noticed no one was doing pizza in the area, so each brother put up $1,000 to start the business. In 1963, he and brother Sam opened their first Pizza Nova location at the corner of Lawrence Avenue and Kennedy Road.

Today, 51 years and 132 locations later, they have added Nova Ristorante, their first full service restaurant of the brand.

Pizza Nova’s resounding success can be credited to many things, including:

1. CEO Sam Primucci (pictured above), who is hands on in all aspects of the business.

2. Their product. “We buy the most expensive tomatoes on the market, Stanislaus tomatoes from Modesto, California. We use only the center cut of bacon, so that every piece is meat, not fat. We use Spanish onions instead of cooking onions,” Sam says. 

3. Sam is fiercely loyal. He uses only the best and “if someone offers us a product for $1 less then we’re spending, we don’t even test it. We don’t purchase price, we purchase quality.”

Nova Ristorante, their newly renovated full dining restaurants boasts 110 seats and is open for both lunch and dinner, with brunch on weekends. The restaurant is cozy and warm without a hint of stuffiness. President Ben Samia and Manager Farhad Fard welcome regulars, such as Mike and Laurie - who always sit at the same table, eat here at least five times a week (sometimes more), and come to talk with the staff as much as enjoy the food. Half of Nova’s customers used to live or go to the school in the area, and have since moved onto places as far as Ajax, Pickering, Whitby, Mississauga and Markham. They come back with their kids and grandkids, like an extended family.

In addition to long-standing customers, new condo units being built in the area will bring in a whole new demographic, which excites the group. Ben says, “We can’t wait to introduce them to Nova.” 

The menu includes their famous stone oven baked pizzas, as well as made from scratch items by Executive Chef Luciano Schipano, whose motto is, “Simplicity, authenticity and love.” Pizza may constitute 40% of sales in the dining room, but with everything from a 10 oz. Striploin ($19.95), Lamb Chops ($19.95), BBQ Back Ribs ($14.99), host of pastas and a Burger ($11.99) with a fresh patty made in house topped with homemade BBQ, scallion aioli and crispy fried leek, that will have your local burger shop wondering where you’ve gone to, there are a ton of options. Add to that the Feature Menu (e.g. Chestnut & Porcini Risotto - $18), as well as the daily specials, there really is something for everyone.

Pizzas have a thin, crispy, chewy crust and come with a variety of piping hot toppings. They come to the table on a pizza stand and the first slice is always served to you. Everything is so fresh, every ingredient sings. 

Pepata Mussels ($11.95) are peppered mussels with a sensuous mix of tomatoes, sautéed with white wine, garlic, wild oregano and extra virgin olive oil. You’ve never had such fresh, large, flavourful mussels as this.

A daily feature of Braised Beef Rib Ravioli in a creamy rose sauce showcases Chef Schiapano’s fine dining skills and execution. This is elevated fare, but at a very affordable price in a casual setting. 

Little has changed over the 51 years. Sam held onto the old logo until just six years ago. “It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, but the best change we ever made,” he says.  When Sam started the business the business, pizzas were made with fresh dough and sauce, with just 4 toppings to choose from - Pepperoni, Mushrooms, Green Peppers and Bacon. In 1970, spaghetti was $1.25 and a large pizza with 3 ingredients was $2.90.

While the prices may have changed, the attention to quality and detail has not. Putting out great food at a great price and providing excellent customer service is still the number one priority for Sam and his team.

Which is what makes Nova stand out. You will come back as much for not just the food, but the people. Just like regulars Mike and Laurie.