Pizza Quest: Ward 32, Casa di Giorgio
Ward 32 sits between the Danforth and Lake Ontario, cutting of at the eastern end at Nursewood Rd and on the west side down Coxwell and Gerrard. For Transit wonks, this is where Neville Park exists, the end of the 501 streetcar line (the longest streetcar route in the world). The Beaches is diverse, beautiful neighbourhood – not without its challenges – that has benefited from a sense of community. It’s not without it’s friction. For example, there is an infamous paper distributed called Your Ward News, which claims to be the world’s “largest anti-marxist” paper which aims to “hold city councillors responsible”. In reality it is a sexist, racist, homophobic, poorly written, divisive paper that most of the community vehemently rejects. There is currently a petition about the paper, and it has been investigated for hate crimes before. So, how does this ward bring communities together? More on that later!
Councillor: Mary Margaret McMahon
Mary Margaret has has faced her fair share of controversy when it comes to elections. She won her seat in 2010, during the wave of anti-incumbency that also brought us Mayor Rob Ford. Ward 32 had previously been held by Sandra Bussin, and the community was hungry for change. McMahon faced Bussin again in 2014, however the controversy came from self-proclaimed Doctor, James Sears, who berated her constantly with horrendous misogynistic vitriol. His obscene community newspaper (Your Ward News) continues to lurk around the neighbourhood, spouting hatred.
On Council, McMahon is considered part of the “middle” wing, as she is far more conservative than the “progressives”, but is often strong on environmental issues.
Pizza: Casa Di Giorgio
We had heard many great things about Casa Di Giorgio going into this Pizza Quest, but it seemed appropriate to ask around the community, and so we did a Twitter Poll. Needless to say, Casa Di Giorgio did win, however the data geek in us fears “other” made a strong showing due to a lack of clarity in ward boundaries.
The pizza scorecard:
What we ordered: Arugula Pizza, Pavaroti (reco’d by waitress as most popular), Firenze
Why we ordered: As with Maker pizza, the options are divided into red and white sauces so we wanted to get one of each. We had a third person with us (because who doesn’t want to get in on pizza?) and the waitress helpfully suggested getting another one, as you can only order one size in house and it is more of an individual size. However, you can order other sizes for takeout and the bang for your buck goes a lot farther on the larger sizes. We had already picked the Arugula and Firenze, so for our third we asked for the most popular pie in the house and she immediately suggested the Pavaroti.
Topping selection 4/5
Bang for your buck 4/5
Meets Expectations 4/4
The service here was amazing, friendly, the complete picture of a charming mom and pop shop. There was good variety in the types of pizza you could order; something to satisfy every craving. The topping combinations went well together and they were fresh with a good sauce-to-dough-to-cheese-to-topping ratio. Unfortunately, the dough did get soggy towards the center, and the sauce was a bit salty for our palate. Our friend who accompanied us, however, is vehemently pro salt and gave it two thumbs up.
Reheating was a challenge with this pizza. The toppings are quite wet, which led to some soggyness out of the package. Attempts were made to mitigate this by using a very hot oven, and placing the pizza on the bottom rack. Ultimately, the top was still quite cold, while the bottom had just begun to warm up. A minute under the broiler helped. Ultimately re-heatable, but too much work.
#BeachZa: A Trip to the Winter Stations
This Ward’s destination was the Winter Stations down by The Beaches. Putting up Public Installation Canadiana Art in an area far from the downtown core and inaccessible by subway is a brilliant way to get foot traffic to your ward. On a beach in the winter no less! Other wards in Toronto should be taking notes, because with foot traffic comes those consumer dollars (in our case, pizza dedicated) to local business.
Toronto is a city full of creative types, bursting with talent, but with so much underwhelming condo art from section 37 money, and a lot of focus on international talent at places like the AGO, the Winter Stations are BEYOND refreshing. Naysayers may not always “get” installation art, but this type of art is incredibly accessible since it exists where you live and not in a gallery (oh, and not to mention that there were wheelchair accessible boardwalks leading towards the stations themselves!). And Toronto seems to agree; there was a huge, diverse crowd lining up just to experience the art. Many of which had ventured to an area of Toronto they would otherwise have no reason to visit. A whole other column could be written on the art itself, but its core purpose seems to be placemaking and bringing people together. In that case, the Winter Stations meet their mandate.
As luck would have it, visiting the Winter Stations on this day turned out to be incredibly relevant to our blog goals, as Mayor John Tory and Ward 32 Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon were making a public appearance, TV crews in tow. Basking in the glow of public space done right, we were excited to hear about the initiative from the policy-makers themselves. However, after throwing platitudes towards how great the project was at bringing together the community, Mary Margaret was very quick to assure the Beaches residents that this was done, “completely privatized – don’t worry, no taxpayer dollars were spent on this art you’re enjoying!”. Immediately disheartened, we left in favor of pizza.
Let us preface our next bit with this: we know that some private partnerships can be beneficial and work well. However, this “taxpayer” rhetoric being placed front and center is very damaging. Telling a bunch of residents that they can get something amazing in their ward for nothing sets a dangerous precedent. Just think about the Scarborough Subway, or the conversations dominating the last two elections. What is the logic behind spoiling a nice afternoon in public space by making it political? And worse, doing so with such divisive and harmful language? Councillor McMahon may not have realized it, but what she is really implying is that arts and culture are not, and should not be, priorities for City Council. That we are a city without the means to have a thriving arts community, and that the Winter Stations are simply just “gravy”.
Let’s face it, the ward we were in and the crowd being addressed were fairly affluent compared to other areas of our city. Having to add an asterisk to such a great initiative completely downplays its impact, and assumes that Beaches residents have accepted the false claim that their municipal tax dollars are constantly being squandered with reckless abandon. It does not look at the nuance around the urban issue, it’s a lazy way to appeal to potential voters.
It was especially disappointing to hear this kind of rhetoric from a councillor who knows what this kind of conversation can lead to, considering the recent upsetting NIMBY-led fight against a homeless shelter in the very same ward. Councillor McMahon even wrote a fantastic op-ed about that battle which you can read here. Taxpayer dollars took a minor role in the homeless shelter resistance, while the main conversation was not wanting the homeless as neighbours. At the heart of it all, is an unsavory brand of divisiveness. We can only speculate around motivations of politicians in the language they use and, the pressure they may be facing. And outside of Ward 32, and outside of this specific councillor, the whole “taxpayers can get something for nothing” rhetoric is rampant and systemic in Toronto. It’s time to shift the conversation. As people who brought our dollars to your ward, we would love if our tax dollars went towards making the Winter Stations, and other public art initiatives, even bigger and better in 2017.
UPDATE: After posting this article, yet another case of NIMBYism reared it’s head in the ward. The City downsized Afrofest, an annual music festival celebrating black culture due to ‘noise complaints’. “We kept trying to get them to comply, and they didn’t. Everyone else seems to behave.” said Mary Margaret McMahon. The ward also hosts Jazz Fest and is about to welcome Bestival this year. Read more here.