Located on a busy block in downtown Oshawa, a short walking distance from two large bank branches, a small office tower, and a UOIT faculty building, lies Pizza Run. According to their website, Pizza Run is the pizza restaurant for those who love gourmet pizza. And because we love gourmet pizza, we stopped in to try them out.
We arrived for lunch mid-week, and found a cavernous dining room with a single table near the front window occupied. Otherwise, the joint was empty. We walked past a dozen tables paired with mis-matched chairs, a pool table curiously placed in the middle of the dining room, and a vintage arcade game console, till we hit the orders counter at the back of the shop.
So far, the restaurant wasn’t screaming, “Welcome, discerning gourmands,” but we were politely greeted by the lone employee working both the cash and the kitchen, who directed us to the ready-made pizza slices behind the display. We had our choice of cheese, pepperoni, meat (with meatballs and sausage), vegetarian (which was loaded with a generous portion of vegetables), or Hawaiian pizza, but, since my reviewing partner is fresh out of preschool, we stuck to the traditional pepperoni.
We were, however, intrigued by the gourmet pastas on the menu, so we ordered the Pizza Run Special Pasta to go for the promise of penne, chicken, shrimp, red onions, mushrooms, green peppers, broccoli, fresh garlic and feta cheese. The pasta was to be made fresh while we waited, which was unexpected, and the employee/chef headed to the kitchen to complete the order while we sat down to eat our pepperoni slice.
When we had entered Pizza Run, the door to the kitchen was open and we glimpsed a huge ball of fresh pizza dough resting on the counter. When we bit into the pepperoni pizza, it was obvious the crust had been made with home made dough: It wasn’t oily, tasteless, or simply a vehicle for tomato sauce and cheese. This crust was light without being too thin, while the tomato sauce held onto the flavour of fresh tomatoes but wisely avoided the overpowering hit of oregano that plagues many pizza sauces.
However, we had really wanted the cheese and pepperoni topping to live up to the “gourmet” promise we’d enjoyed with the crust and the sauce. But everything above the tomato sauce tasted like we’d bit into a slice from the local Pizza Pizza – the mozzarella was rubbery, the pepperoni was flavourless. Where was the promised “gourmet”? We would have loved to have seen Pizza Run’s beautiful crust and sauce paired with a selection of high-end pizza toppings, rather than the predictable pre-made cheese, meat or vegetarian slices.
Our Pizza Run Special Pasta was now ready and presented to us, piping hot in a take out container…and the portion was huge. For $7.99, we were walking out with a massive serving of pasta, with big chunks of grilled chicken breast meat, green peppers, feta, red onion, a bit of broccoli, and small shrimp.
On first bite, the pasta was very flavourful, if a bit greasy. The feta cheese and garlic gave the otherwise bland combination of vegetables and chicken a lift, and the green peppers, broccoli and red onions had been perfectly sautéed so they retained crunch and colour. The chicken was a welcome protein addition, but the shrimp left us scratching our heads: the tiny salad shrimp could be easily removed and no one would mourn the loss.
But the biggest misstep was the overcooked penne, which was chewy and falling apart. We loved that the pasta topping was made fresh while we waited, but the super-soft penne nearly ruined the dish. Offer us perfectly cooked al dente penne, however, and Pizza Run would have a real winner.
Pizza Run is located at 19 Simcoe Street South. One pepperoni pizza slice cost $2.49, and the Pizza Run Special Pasta cost $7.99.