Toronto, CAN: First Look – Bestia, A Mobile Neapolitan Pizzeria from the Owners of The Slow Room

The Porta a Porta, a take on the calzone (Images: David Ort

By David Ort  |

The Porta a Porta, a take on the calzone (Images: David Ort
The Porta a Porta, a take on the calzone (Images: David Ort

It’s only been three years since Roberto Mandarino left his day job at an engineering firm, but he and his wife Sandra now own a coffee shop (The Slow Room), a casual Italian eatery (Sagra) and, most recently, a new food truck. Bestia launched last month with a menu tightly focused on traditional Neapolitan pizzas.

Mr. Mandarino had an all-too-typical experience as the owner of a new food truck in Toronto — nearly a year filled with red tape and licence applications. By contrast, he was able to get a mobile vendor licence from the City of Vaughan in an over-the-counter process that he says took a couple hours.

The truck’s obvious focal point is the Forno Bravo oven that Mandarino installed himself. In such a small space, it is impossible to miss a 900°F wood-burning fire. That’s enough heat to cook pizzas in under two minutes with the expected leopard-spotting on the bottom and the charred blisters on the top of the crust.

The pies are based on a classic pizza dough made with Antimo Caputo flour. It’s fermented for three days. For a margherita, imported Italian tomatoes, Ontario fior di latte mozzarella and fresh basil make up the traditional trio. Add spicy Calabrese sausage, and you get a Diavolo. Or, sub in ricotta and fold the edges of the dough like an envelope for the Porta a Porta — Italian for “door-to-door.” It’s a cousin of the calzone.

Menus for past services have included options such as the funghi (mushroom), the Napoli (anchovies, olives, and basil) and the crudo (prosciutto, cherry tomato, Parmesan, and arugula). Prices vary depending on time of day and location, but pizzas usually land somewhere between $6 and $10.

Mandarino explains his admiration for pizza by noting, “It is something so simple that you could work at and strive for years, and never get it perfect.”

To augment the pizza offerings, chef Sivithar Sitsoruban (also the head chef at Sagra) occasionally adds salads, sandwiches or traditional Italian desserts to the menu. Slow-roasted porchetta is a popular filling for the sandwich buns that he bakes in the truck’s oven.

Despite fond memories of Knight Rider, Mandarino does have plans to add a logo to the truck’s all-black exterior.

Bestia is participating in Toronto’s food truck pilot project, so it will be downtown for lunch and dinner services this month. Its next appearance will be at this weekend’s Ribfest in Woodbridge.