Without Papers was creating buzz even before its opening this month in Nectar’s old second-floor space in Inglewood. There were high expectations for the casual pizza place because it’s run by the same people behind Italian favourite, Sugo, which is just downstairs.
Then there was the unusual name. Without Papers is a reference to snubbing the strict rules by the Neapolitan Pizza Association which dictates everything including the kind of flour, tomatoes and oven used in its “certified” pizzas. “Without papers” also celebrates the heritage of the Italian owners.
This is going to be a long entry because there were a few amusing, random side stories to my experience. So I’ll start with the food.
Pizzas are cooked in a gorgeous cherry red oven in the open kitchen. The menu is short and fun. Floats (Grizzly Paw root beer, cherry cola, cream soda) with homemade ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, pistachio) ($7) meant we got to have dessert before our lunch even arrived.
I think the Hogwild ($18) is one of Calgary’s best restaurant pizzas. The name and the salty, manly aroma of spicy wild boar sausage and prosciutto made me think of a burly biker. This dude is kinda nutty with braised rapini and friulano cheese, but has a rich heart of roasted garlic wine sauce.
His girlfriend, the Baby Doll ($18), likes to get dressed up with colourful eggplant, artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes. She has bosomy, tasty free-range chicken bits and goat cheese makes her a little salty. Hogwild digs that.
And what of the thin crust? Crispy to the bite, and solid under all the toppings.
The long dining room has a continuous banquette on two walls, three two-person tables against the windows and then the rest of the seating is all bar-height chars.
Movies are projected on one white wall. Sometimes they switch to show Flames’ games and on Saturday afternoons, they play a kids’ film.
We sat right in front of the open kitchen which has a great skylight. They were slammed during this particular lunch and owner Angelo Contrada was running a tight ship.
I could hear him barking at the kitchen staff because they were low on tomato sauce and other prep. He was not happy. But I didn’t find it uncomfortable or anything. It was obvious that he cared about what left the kitchen and things were getting very backed up.
In fact, our ice cream floats were comped because it took a while for our order to arrive. I thought that was a very nice gesture.
High chairs debacle
This was actually my second attempt to eat at Without Papers. I had tried to go for lunch on a blustery day during its second week. But they were closed! I had checked the hours on the website but it turned out they weren’t ready to do lunch service quite yet.
So I triple-checked that lunch was indeed on. Then I tweeted @wopapers to ask “Do you have high chairs?” They said yes so off Alison and I went, tromping up the narrow stairs with babies in our arms.
However we discovered there were no baby high chairs, only two booster seats which we could place on um, chairs that were high. High chairs. Right. This posed a few problems in securing the seven-month-old babies. Because they’re still unstable and squirmy, there was the potential of them and the booster falling right off the chair.
Brilliant Mommy MacGyver Alison figured out that we could thread a receiving blanket through a slot in the back of the booster and tie it around the back of the chair. Then I found that one of the buckles belting H in place was broken, so I ended up knotting the straps around his legs.
(I’m in no way condemning Without Papers for not having a perfect baby setup, as it’s not a daycare. I’m just sharing what we bumbled through.)
We were quite a silly scene. Luckily, Stacey the very patient and helpful hostess sat us at four seats in front of the open kitchen which gave us lots of room to move around and not bother any other tables.
UPDATE – November 2011: Without Papers now has clip-on high chairs for babies, toddlers who still need a bit more security than boosters. Yay!
‘Are you that food blogger?’
Amidst the baby chair silliness, a lovely lady came up to me and said, “Are you that food blogger?” I was floored. I wasn’t holding a cup over my face, how did she recognize me?
Turns out Shella saw my tweet asking about high chairs and then we showed up with babies and she put two and two together. She was with some very nice people from Shaw who knew all about H and our move. It was great to meet people who read this blog but it was a bit weird because I like being anonymous. But that’s harder to do now, lugging H and a camera.
Last month, a server at AKA recognized me and apologized for making us lineup. No way! It was weekend brunch and the place was packed. I was craving their chicken (confit) and (quinoa) waffles badly. OF COURSE, I’m going to wait for a table!
Then last weekend, a couple came to my door to pick up something I posted on Kijiji and a woman said, “Hey! Are you the food blogger?”
It’s flattering and humbling to know I’ve gained a tidbit of celebrity through this hobby of mine. But in this fickle world of food blogging, I think anonymity is a good thing. Anonymity=no special treatment=fair reviews. I think it’s all a sign that it’s OK to move on, like The Littlest Hobo. (Isn’t that a great theme song?)
Without Papers, 1216-9th Ave. SE, (403) 457-1154. Open Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 3-9 p.m. Closed Monday.
Baby notes – Without Papers plays a kids’ movie every Saturday afternoon around 4 p.m.
Room for strollers: No
High chairs: Two boosters only. Boosters and clip-on high chairs
Kids menu: No
Ambiance: Casual trendy, good ambient noise to drown out any fussiness
Access: Up narrow flight of stairs. Carry a baby-filled bucket seat at your own risk.