A fair amount of takeout pizza in Montreal—certainly from establishments along St. Laurent—can best be described in degrees of mediocrity. While there is an abundance of respectable, acceptably priced fast food in this city, pizza is a niche in a state of indifference. A market consumed by mediocre, standardized product from the national chains, and an unpredictable but similarly mediocre product from most independent pizzerias.
Into this market steps Pizza Navona, which set up shop this past summer across the street from McLennan Library. The sign outside advertises two cheese pizza slices and a soda for just over $4 ($5 with tax). In other cities, this would be a middle-of-the-pack price, but here in Montreal, it constitutes a deal of note. The real question is, does it taste any good?
The pizza slices at the restaurant—all nine varieties—are kept in a glass box and heated briefly in the oven before serving. Of the varieties, Mexican pizza is superior, but it is a bit smaller than the other slices; in contrast, the barbecue chicken pizza is better in concept than execution. Pepperoni is a solid, if unremarkable choice if the plain cheese slice simply won’t do. All slices can be topped with Parmesan cheese and spicy oil (which the employees says is made on-site) at no extra charge.
Pizza Navona also serves up non-pizza options including paninis and salads.
I tried the cheese and Mexican slices, which came to $5.75 without a drink. Cheese slices alone are $1.99; topped slices are $2.99 each. Both were acceptable. The cheese slice had a soft crust, with a light crisp at the bottom. The cheese blends particularly well with the parmesan and oil, and the edge of the slice, which is sprinkled with sesame seeds, tastes particularly appetizing when folded over the last bits of cheese. The Mexican slice was a sharp, somewhat spicy fusion of flavour. The crust and the toppings—olives, peppers, and ground beef—all blended effectively.
The atmosphere at Pizza Navona is just what you would expect. For a pizza joint, the relatively comfortable seats and five tables—an ample number for the space—make it a reasonably appealing place to stay and eat. A television in a corner of the eating area is often tuned to some disposable daytime fare, but occasionally live sports are shown. Either way, it isn’t particularly obtrusive.
While Pizza Navona may not stand out for its atmosphere or quality of food, it’s certainly a worthy destination for a quick lunch between classes, and the large variety of dressed pizzas should have something to offer to any taste. The $5 price for two slices and soda is on the cheap end of downtown options. While Pizza Navona seems to harbour high aspirations, the result is just good enough; better than absolute mediocrity, but less than it first seems.