Terra Cotta is friendly, with brother-and-sister co-owners Greg and Dina Gnyc waiting tables themselves and chatting amiably.
Their mom made the tablecloths, chair covers and demented stuffed-animal birds that adorn the tables. Each pizza is made to order in a wood-fired clay oven.
Before I get into how good the food is, notice also that the Canadian prices translate, at current rates, to about $4.08-$8.47 United States per pizza. On Wednesdays pizzas are two-for-one for college students, faculty or staff, and on Tuesdays they're two-for-one for everyone. Even if they were mediocre, you'd have no choice but to try La Bruna or La Blonda at about $4.23 United States each.
But they are very good. La Blonda, for example, eschews tomato sauce altogether, employing instead pesto, mozzarella, feta, Spanish onions, roasted yellow peppers, zucchini, artichokes and chicken. Each flavor stands out (OK, maybe not the zucchini).
La Rossa is hot, with tomato sauce, mozzarella and cheddar, roasted red peppers, red onions, chilies and delicious cacciatore sausage — much more interesting, spicier and more tender than pepperoni. Frutti di Mare combines scallops, calamari and shrimp with a housemade tomato sauce.
If you love olives, you'll love Olivinia or La Bruna, which combine a housemade tapenade with various goodies ranging from spinach and feta to Asiago cheese and eggplant.
Those are just some of the Pizza Elegante choices, in the high (!) end of the price range, and you're encouraged to create your own. More ordinary combos are available too. Even here, though, you'll find prosciutto as well as ham, eggplant and chili peppers in the Pizza Pazza, and soppressatta, a spicy salami. The Bismark is topped off with ham and eggs.
I recommend the side dishes as well. Caesar salad uses a great bacon and homemade croutons. Terra Cotta salad is a meal, with a garlic- and Cajun-spiced "dressing with attitude." (Perhaps too much dressing; ask for a lighter touch.) The top-notch roasted vegetable soup, served with a big round spoon, could also be a meal. It includes corn, spinach, carrots and a few red-brown beans; I was lucky and got to sample tomorrow's version the night before.
Appetizers: Bruschetta ($3.75) is large and made with fresh tomatoes. Crostino Alla Terra Cotta is sort of like a jumbled-up pizza: croutons covered in tomato sauce, cheese, mushrooms, onions, spinach and bacon, and baked. Both are expertly done.
And if you're one of the many who've been the victim of so many bad pizzas that you've sworn off forever, there are calzones and sandwiches on lightly toasted focaccia. Choose your own fillings, such as pesto, pancetta, soppressatta, grilled eggplant or zucchini.
Part of the fun is trying Jones Soda from Vancouver, British Columbia, in neon colors and flavors from Blue Bubble Gum to Strawberry Lime to Vanilla Cola. They taste exactly as advertised; the makers invite you to send in photos to be used on their labels, which are changed regularly.
Finally, don't leave without trying Greg's housemade hot sauce, Gnyp Drip, or one of the dozens of hot sauces Terra Cotta carries from all over. They'll also supply flavored oils to dip your focaccia in; I recommend the roasted red pepper variety, which tastes fresh. Wine, beer, liquor. Open weekdays for lunch and every evening except Monday.
Jane Slaughter dines for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].