Toronto·Suresh Doss

This Detroit-style pizza spot tops its pies with jerk chicken or kothu roti

Descendant Detroit Style Pizza in Leslieville serves up many tasty variations of the Motor City version with some toppings you might not expect, like kothu roti — leftover roti, chopped into pieces and cooked over a hot griddle with curry leaves, onions, and mutton curry.

Descendant Detroit Style Pizza is located at 1168 Queen St. E. in Toronto

Descendant Detroit Style Pizza has been serving the Motor City version of the world famous dish in Leslieville for the last four years. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

We can all agree that over the last decade Toronto's dining scene has grown by bringing world cuisine to the table. 

A pleasant side effect of this has been a pizza boom. 

Toronto was once known for being a city that mimics a New York-style slice, but now, let's appreciate that we have Neapolitan, Roman, Sicilian, Chicago deep-dish and Detroit-style pies available.

"It wasn't so much that no one else was doing it, I just really love Detroit-style pizza," explained Chris Getchell of Descendant Detroit Style Pizza in Leslieville. 

Suresh Doss takes us inside Descendent Pizza in Leslieville. 1:04

Getchell spent time in the kitchen at Pizzeria Libretto before opening his pizza shop four years ago. It's Toronto's first pizza parlour dedicated to the Motor City version of the famous dish.

"At the time, the Leslieville strip was quite bare. There were a lot of empty storefronts. I also wasn't sure if the city was ready for Detroit-style pizza," said Getchell.

Four years is a blink in the food scene, I remember my first visit to Descendant when it first opened. I had Detroit-style pizza before but the concept was still very new to me. Getchell had a small menu, half-a-dozen variations of rectangular pizzas baked in steel pans.

"What identifies Detroit-style pizza for me is obviously the shape but also the way the crust is formed and the way the centre is," Getchell said. 

Chris Getchell is the owner of Descendant Detroit Style Pizza in Leslieville. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Since opening, Getchell has made strides in his dough work. In the beginning he made pies from dough he fermented overnight. Now, it's a laborious three-day ferment.

"My pursuit is for the perfect texture in the middle of the pizza. Three days is a long time but the results are noticeable."

The texture Getchell is referring to is a focaccia-like airiness, a fluffy centre that gives a slight dreaminess, flanked by the darkened crust around the pie. It is a texturally pleasing pizza with the crisp corners and soft centre.

One of my favourite variations is the GAT daddy, which is topped with fennel sausage made in-house, hot peppers, thin strings of red onions and a generous drizzle of basil oil. It is eerily reminiscent of the Italian table bread with accents of fennel and spice. 

The GAT daddy is topped with in-house made fennel sausage, hot peppers, thin strings of red onions and a generous drizzle of basil oil. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Getchell recalls that when he opened Descendant the neighbourhood was in a state of flux. That may not be the case now, but it inspired Getchell in the early days to foster a community feel.

After a trip to nearby Tropical Joe's on Gerard Street East, he approached the owner to see if he can use the restaurant's jerk chicken on his pizzas.

"I really liked the way they marinate their meat. It's a really deep jerk marinade. I thought it would go well with the dough I was making."

Electric Avenue, as it's called, is a pizza that's topped with chunks of jerk chicken and is dressed with fried pineapple and a curried lime sauce.

It's finished with another collab, a Panamanian-style hot sauce made in Toronto called Diablo's Fuego.

"It may sound unorthodox, but these are local foods that I am personally a fan of. That's what Descendant is about."

The Electric Avenue pizza is topped with chunks of jerk chicken, fried pineapple and a curried lime sauce. It's finished with a Panamian-style hot sauce made in Toronto, called Diablo's Fuego.

There's one more, and it is my personal favourite for a few reasons.

Over the years, Getchell has employed a handful of Tamil cooks in the kitchen.

One day, a cook brought him a lunch of kothu roti — leftover roti, chopped into pieces and cooked over a hot griddle with curry leaves, onions, and mutton curry.

Getchell fell in love with the dish and experimented with it as a topping for his pizzas.

The Jaffna pizza was born.

"It started off as a special and we were not able to take it off the menu." 

His kitchen manager Dinesh Jeyaseelan brings in the kothu roti daily from nearby Kalyani Take Out in Scarborough. 

The pie is finished with a lacing of mango chutney and coconut sambal sprinkled throughout.

"You would never have kothu roti like this in Sri Lanka," Jeyaseelan explained.

"It's different, uniquely Canadian."

About the Author

Suresh Doss is a Toronto-based food writer. He joins CBC Radio's Metro Morning as a weekly food columnist. Currently, Doss is the print editor for Foodism Toronto magazine and regularly contributes to Toronto Life, the Globe and Mail and Eater National. Doss regularly runs food tours throughout the GTA, aimed at highlighting its multicultural pockets.

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