The Sicilian-Levantine pizzeria recently had its opening in Toronto, Ont. and this summer we strongly recommend everyone to check out Levant, a must-go place because the food is exceptional.
The Levant focuses on providing customers with more than just a delicious pizza. They truly care about providing a unique experience that customers will remember along with the flavours that will keep them wanting more. The concept brings familiar (and perhaps unfamiliar) middle eastern flavours and dishes to the pizza scene. By combining traditional Levantine cuisine with Sicilian focaccia, Levant truly delivers a one-of-a-kind experience.
It is located at 899 Bloor St. W, in the heart of Toronto’s west end, a place that can’t be missed.
Levant doesn’t just serve up incredible Sicilian pizzas, but the restaurant owners have made it a goal to build a space that is safe and inclusive for everyone to eat and work where everyone is welcomed. The pizzeria simply wants everyone to come in and simply enjoy their tabouleh Caesar salads, maqluba pizza, or tiramisu kunafa free without any worries. As part of their core values, Levant ensures that from the people that make the pizza to the owners, and to the people that walk in to get the pizza know they can feel safe regardless of their background, culture, sexuality, ethnicity, and race.
The owners have made sure that along with providing deliciously warm pizzas, the environment itself is warm and inviting to everyone, making every customer feel at home. This place has a beautiful interior, which makes this the perfect way to spend some time on your own or with your loved ones.
We sat down with the owners of Levant to see what inspired them to start this pizzeria, and all things food. Let us introduce you to the masterminds of innovative culinary Tamer Agha, and Nader Qawasmi.
What is the origin story of the Levant Pizzeria?
Nader Qawasmi: "It was many years in the making that I wanted to open up a restaurant and I also have a family background in the restaurant industry. I have always had a passion for cooking, and being in the kitchen in general and it was maybe last year when I started to rethink what it is that I wanted to do, I decided I wanted to jump into the restaurant industry. I want to bring something new, and do something that has not been done before, and bring my background to it as well." Nader Qawasmi: "In Toronto when it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine it is the same foods like shawarma, or a platter, and a few varieties of desserts. There is so much more to Middle Eastern cuisine and I wanted to show that to people and mix it with my love for Italian food, pizza and baking. That is when Tamer came in, and he is more on the business side of the pizzeria."
Tamer Agha: "I find Toronto a great place for exploration, and finding great places to try new things but it is also a great place for businesses. Especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, it was important for me to have my own business, and one day Tamer and I were joking on a patio about starting our own business and in November it became a reality. We truly believe that Toronto has good Middle Eastern places but it is missing the specific foods that we eat on a daily basis."
Where did the unique name Levant come from?
Nader Qawasmi: "The name Levant is taken from the regions where we are from; Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, etc. The name stayed true to our roots." "Along with that, we realized that it also derives from Italian because the word Levante means rising which means the rising of the sun in the east." "We figured this name was a great fit for Sicilian-Levantine cuisine. They all just naturally fit with each other."
What types of pizza and other dishes do you recommend?
Nader Qawasmi: "There are so many great options for people to choose from." Click here to check out the full Levant Menu We recommend: Quattro Formaggi (Levant's signature red sauce, mozzarella, provolone, gruyere, and caprano goat cheese) Sficione (which is a classic Sicilian pie) Upside Down "Maqluba" (a signature Levantine dish - confit garlic spread, roasted Mediterranean spiced cauliflower, roasted eggplant, cherry tomato, mozzarella, 7-spice labneh creme) Sumac "Musakhan" (musakhan is a Palestinian treasure - and so is this pie. sumac caramelized onions, 7-spice chicken confit, saffron and lemon whipped ricotta dollops, fresh oregano) Crispy and Creme (signature red sauce, housemade kofta meatballs, mozzarella, provolone, Persian fried onions, hot peppers, 7-spice creme dollaps) Potato Batata - VEGAN (slow-cooked mushroom puree, sliced garlic potato, sauteed sherry mushroom, fried sage)
Nader Qawasmi: "We also have an insane appetizer and dessert menu. Some of which include; Harissa Honey Butter Cauliflower,Hummus Bianca,Hummus Rosa,Hummus Verde, Muhammara Dip,Tabbouleh Caesar salad, and loads of different forms of Kunafa including a delicious Tiramisu.
Can you walk us through a typical day at Levant?
Nader Qawasm: "A typical day starts four days before. We have someone doing prep, someone doing the dough, and that sits for 4 days in the fridge. Somebody comes in and pans it all and gets it ready for the day. We have a team of 12 people now and they all work so hard in delivering the best quality service to our customer every time. We are so grateful for the service we are providing others."
How did people from the Arab and Italian community react to this mixed fusion pizza place?
Nader Qawasmi: "It's been so overwhelmingly positive, if you go to the google reviews we are at 5 stars and we hope that it continues." "Customers from the Middle Eastern community are loving it, they are being brought back home with the maqluba and shawarma pizzas. And our Palestine-style kunafa has solid reviews! Customers from the Italian community have told us that the focaccia-style pizza crust, and the overall redefined traditional flavour profiles are delicious." Tamer Agha:"Our pizza is so amazing, people like to dine in and we do have that option, but people also love to take it home. Majority love to do that since it is a small space and they have said that even when they reheated the pizza the next day it still kept its freshness and the flavours were still just as exquisite."
“We do Sicilian pizza crust which means that it is thicker, but the one word or phrase that everyone says is that this is unique, and nothing like what anyone has ever had before.”Nader Qawasmi
“People take it home to enjoy, and the food reminds them of back home, those memories and recalling home is what they love. We have heard from many customers that reheated pizza the next day still has the same freshness.”Tamer Agha
What makes Levant different from a typical pizza store?
Nader Qawasmi: "There are two things that really stand out. First, we ensure that anyone that enters the place feels welcomed, appreciated, and not judged. Our values are that we care a lot about diversity and inclusion and it carries on to the people that we employ as well. The second would be the process which is a labour of love and we put a lot of heart into it, and the flavours which are so unique and outstanding."
From the delicious food, the interior, and the welcoming environment, this is a place you must visit when you’re in Toronto. We recommend you go that extra mile to take yourself or your loved ones out for a special day in Toronto.