Windsor, ON's Pizza Is "Just Better," Says Guy Who Made a Documentary About It

"We're good at making pizza. We're good at making minivans. We're good at playing hockey. However, we're not that great at self-promotion."
Windsor, ON's Pizza Is 'Just Better,' Says Guy Who Made a Documentary About It
Windsor residents are fiercely proud of their pies. When Exclaim! shared the trailer for the new documentary The Pizza City You've Never Heard Of on Facebook, the comments section was inundated with people raving about the city's distinctive style of pie. A small but vocal contingent scoffed and claimed that the pizza was better in Cornwall, ON, seven hours away at the other end of the province.

So what's the big fuss? And what's the deal with shredded pepperoni? Director Tristan Laughton and writer/host George Kalivas aim to answer that question with The Pizza City You've Never Heard Of, which takes a close look at a few local pizzerias and aims to bring Windsor into a conversation that is typically dominated by cities like New York, New Haven and Naples.

The Pizza City You've Never Heard Of doesn't have a release date yet, but it's expected to make a festival run this fall and arrive widely in early 2022. Exclaim! spoke with Kalivas, the film's on-screen host, about why Windsor is so special that he needed to make a feature-length film about it.

Who are you, and how did you come to make a documentary about pizza?

My name is George Kalivas. I was born and raised in Windsor, ON. I'm a marketing guy that works in the music industry, who spends half his time watching early 2000s Hot97 Funk Flex freestyles and the other half watching Stanley Tucci exploring Bologna. When I was 18, I moved to NYC for school and quickly became obsessed with two things: hip-hop and food culture.

Fast-forward to now, my partner Tristan Laughton and I spend a lot of time together creating content for our artists. When COVID forced the music industry to take a knee, it was a shock to the system. Like the rest of the world, we spent all last summer in the house, but it gave us the time to plan the film. I guess you could say this documentary is 15 years in the making, for me.

Tell us about Windsor pizza! What distinguishes it from other pizzas?

The one thing that my friends from other cities always say is that Windsor pizza is perfectly in the middle of thick and thin. It's not as thin as a New York slice, and not as thick as a Sicilian. At the end of the day, Windsor-style has a distinct flavour profile that Windsorites dream of.  A major factor is our cornmeal-heavy crust that's made using a classic bread-baking technique. Another factor is the sweet and slightly spicy sauce. No bland, middle-of-the-road sauce can be found in these pies.

When it comes to cheese, this is something you can't go without. We use a high-fat mozzarella made by Galati Cheese Company, a local creamery that can only be found in Southwestern Ontario. If you're not using this cheese, it's not a Windsor-style pizza. Last but not least, you can spot our toppings from a mile away. We don't serve grease cups on our pizza. We shred our pepperoni. Why? It's just better! Check out the documentary when it comes out to get the full rundown of the origin of our style.

Why doesn't Windsor get as much credit as a pizza city compared to, say, New York or Chicago or Detroit?

We're good at making pizza. We're good at making minivans. We're good at playing hockey. However, we're not that great at self-promotion. I'm hoping to help change that moving forward.

If you're in Windsor for a day and feel like trying some local pizza, where should you go?

Honestly, take your pick! There are so many incredible spots that will treat you like family in Windsor. We were only able to tell the stories of six pizzerias in the documentary, but there are many more that are killing it as well. The conversation of "best pizza in Windsor" usually starts a 30-minute earful where I come from. I recommend that anybody who wants to try it just texts the one person they know from Windsor, and you'll get your answer. Trust me!

When we posted about your documentary on Facebook, a lot of people in the comments started talking about Cornwall pizza. Have you tried pizza from Cornwall, and how does it compare to Windsor's?

I saw that! Shout out to them. I haven't been to Cornwall to try the pies. However, I reached out to one of my best friends who spent time in Cornwall while in the military. He gave me all the best places. I'll be making that trip soon.

What do you hope viewers take away from The Pizza City You've Never Heard Of?   

As someone who's spent a lot of time watching food culture shows, I noticed that I kept hearing the same stories being told over and over by different people. If you're into food, pizza especially, this is a story I bet you've never heard before. Check it out and find out why a small city across the river from Detroit deserves to be in the conversation when it comes to the top pizza cities in the world.    

The Pizza City You've Never Heard Of is listed as "coming soon." What's the release plan? 

We're currently awaiting responses from film festivals as we speak. We plan to take the The Pizza City You've Never Heard Of on a fall festival run and anticipate the official release to come in early 2022. All screening dates will be posted on pizzadocumentary.com.