A partnership between Chef Rocco Agostino (Pizzeria Libretto) and Nick auf der Mauer (Porchetta & Co.) is what brought A3 Napoli to life. The Librettos have been dominating the Italian pizza scene in Toronto for 9 years since opening their first of now four locations. Each location rolls out about 2,000 pizzas a week, so you would think they have their hands full. Instead, they partnered with Porchetta & Co, the geniuses behind slow-cooked roast pork sandwiches on Dundas West. In 2015 alone the teams together launched a fourth Libretto location on King West, a second Porchetta & Co., and A3 Napoli.
Edible examples of their partnership seem to make their way to the menu too. This year, Porchetta & Co. and A3 Napoli aligned to highlight what they each do best: porchetta and pizza – with an exclusive pie created between the two of them. Slices of Chef Nick auf der Mauer’s roast straight from the Porchetta kitchens topped the mouth-watering pizza, along with béchamel, parmesan, provolone, and pear. Sprinklings of pistachio, fried sage, crackling, and for sweetness, a drizzle of honey on top. The $15 pizza embodied partnership: at once it was heavy, with a light crust, sweet and savory, salty but refreshing.
A true test of an authentic Italian pizza is one that A3 does well: the traditional margherita ($8.75). With a light lathering of tomato sauce, pungent splotches of mozzarella cheese, a few leaves of basil, and trickles of olive oil pooling on top of a thin and soft, lightly-floured crust with charred dark bubbles decorating the sides – simple has never tasted better. Unlike Libretto’s more extensive selection, the menu at A3 Napoli only offers five other pizza options. Red pizzas include the: Maialino ($13) with nduja, pepperoni, crispy pork, and basil, Diavola ($13) with sopprasetta, bomba, and basil, or the Marinara ($7.5) of tomato, garlic, oregano, and basil. They have one white pizza ($12) with mushroom, mozzarella, panna, provola, carmelized onion, garlic, and thyme.
In addition to pizzas, A3 Napoli has a variety of fried foods like fried pizza with ricotta and pork ($13), fried shrimp, calamari, and cod ($14), or fried arancini, meatballs, and mozzarella ($8). Their deep fried mac & cheese ($5) was a delicious, greasy, gooey mess that is insanely rich with salty bits of ham wedged inside. Everything is fried in their custom deep fryer called a friggitrice, a massive structure specifically designed for A3 and handmade in Naples by Stefano Ferrera.
There’s a similar story behind their custom 2.5 tonne pizza oven. Ferrara is renowned for his Neopolitan pizza ovens in Naples, with his family being in business for 3 generations. A3 Napoli’s pizza oven was the biggest one made to date, at seven feet tall and six thousand pounds. Pizzas in the oven only need to bake for 90 seconds in the 900 degree powerhouse. Somehow, for now, the oven made its way into the A3 Napoli kitchen without buckling through the floors, and serves as the centerpiece of the brightly lit, retro-styled restaurant.
Once you walk past the ordering counter and the giant pizza oven, colourful red and yellow stools at wood tables catch your eye, with dangling lightbulbs and pizzeria e friggitoria written in neon lights on the wall. Rough exposed brick contrasts with the white subway tile near the entrance, meeting detailed mosaic tile on the floor. Mirrors on the wall open up the long space, eventually leading you to a patio in the back, open throughout the summer. A3 is mostly a fast food, take-out spot, but there are at least 34 seats available for those who would rather sit in.
A3 Napoli. 589 College St., Toronto, ON. (416) 588-6006