When Michael Gray, Boston Pizza's Director of Culinary and Executive Chef sets out to change the menu at Canada's leading chain of casual-dining, sit-down restaurants he faces a long process. As well as hitting the right food-trend notes, he also has to satisfy the owners of the company's 340 locations and their respective regular customers. He got the ball rolling on the current revamp in August 2011 when he took over his position.
A pizza in the centre of the table is a naturally communal meal. Gray and his team kept this shareable plate philosophy in mind when they were adding pizza spring rolls (think pizza pocket meets egg roll) and calamari (lightly-dusted, fried, and served with slices of banana peppers) to the menu. Getting the meatball grinder sandwich just right was a matter of balancing culinary vision against the regional tradition. New pizza additions are a Mediterranean vegetable and a pulled pork option (featuring locally-smoked pork and a sweet barbeque sauce). The truly gluttonous will be disappointed to read that the poutine pizza is still a Quebec-only offering.
At the new menu tasting the second half of the family-dining / sports-bar dichotomy was not forgotten. We were reminded of the see-any-game-from-any-seat mission that explains all the screens. Also, we were given a hint that the Front Street location plans to use their patio to host a tailgate party when the NFL brings the Buffalo Bills to town.
An unexpected advantage that a large company with strictly standardised processes can offer is the ability to serve truly gluten-free pizza. The dough comes sealed in individual portions from a certified gluten-free supplier, the cook changes their apron and uses a clean cutting board to chop the ingredients, and the order is picked up from the kitchen by a manager and delivery directly to the table.
For dessert, sharing is more a necessity than an option. Both the s'mores pizza and the indulgent Panookie (a warm chocolate chip cookie served in a pan with a scoop of ice cream) push the 1,000 calorie mark.
Written by David Ort
As one of Spotlight’s contributing editors, David enjoys turning his mind (and keyboard) to a wide variety of topics ranging from recipes to restaurants to craft beer. When he’s not writing for Spotlight Toronto, David shares his thoughts on new restaurants and beer at PostCity.com and all things food and drink on his own site, Food With Legs.