I can only recall feeling envy once on Twitter (that’s an emotion usually found lurking under Instagram’s round-cornered veneer). It was midway through the hellscape of 2020, and while there were a billion pressing things I should’ve been fixating on, I found myself repeating the same story to any friend held captive in my socially distanced presence: Some lady from Truro had relocated to New York, literal pizza capital of the world, but was craving Greco—the Atlantic Canadian chain that has no discernable ties to Greek anything (what does the name even mean?) and is widely derided as the lowest reincarnation a slice could receive as punishment for its past sins. “Imagine,” I would tell friends as their eyes glossed over with the same sheen as Greco’s plasticky mozzarella, “she had to explain to her boyfriend in Queens—who presumably has only ever had real pizza—what made this mass-produced schlock so special! And then Greco sent her a build-your-own kit, complete with delivery box!”
The rub, as it were, was that Greco was apparently willing to airlift its one-of-a-kind combination of bread-y base, sweet sauce and melted-putty cheese to this woman while I, living in south end Halifax, could not convince the Clayton Park outpost of the chain to drive downtown with a $38.99 party pizza meal deal. Not even on my birthday. (Yes, I offered to pay extra for delivery. No, it did not sway the powers that be.)
So when, earlier this year, a looming image of the Greco Chef was papered over a Gottingen Street window with the words “coming soon,” my phone began lighting up with the news. Every friend who had to listen to my rant was telling me that this was the somehow-already-tattered sign my luck was changing. My Summer of George, so to speak, might finally be ending and this was proof that, after multiple personal crises, calamities and grief, the universe was throwing me a bone—or maybe a piece of the chain’s trademarked stuffed crust.
My friends asked aloud if the restaurant’s arrival at 2174 Gottingen was a sign that the neighbourhood had achieved peak gentrification—or if the budget chain’s newest location meant we had gone full-circle. I have no opinion either way, since I’m too busy revelling in my favourite slice.
The appeal of Greco pizza—the only good thing to ever come out of Moncton, NB, where the chain began in 1977—would be easy to dismiss as an elaborate affectation, a put-on reverse-snobbery against the many fine restaurants in the city that prize elaborate technique, atmosphere and sustainably sourced local ingredients. (You will find none of these things in a Greco.)
But this isn’t an inverted, anti-Bon Appetit thing. It’s much simpler. For me, growing up in northern New Brunswick, the industrial, square party pizzas from Greco were the $5 hot lunch that heralded the end of the school week. They were the staple fare of birthdays and slumber parties, and the sweet, neon sauce is smeared on the corners of many childhood memories of mine.
By high school, we saw how janky the chain could be. In Miramichi, at least in the early 2000s, the local Greco was teen shorthand for greasy, and if you wanted to create an unflattering comparison, you’d ask someone when they ate there last. (The real joke, though, was the fact that all of us frequented it.)
"Even the brand-new Gottingen Street Greco already has the dying lighting of a place forgotten by time and god, and it’s only been open about a week."tweet this
Even the brand-new Gottingen Street Greco already has the dying lighting of a place forgotten by time and god, and it’s only been open about a week. Once this summer, when I was in Moncton, my boyfriend and I stopped by a Greco in a weird industrial park. I asked if they had a bathroom while we waited for our order—and the server made me swear I wasn’t going to shoot up in the stall before she was willing to hand over the key. (“Please don’t make me regret this,” she said, eyes pleading. It was 8pm.)
Nostalgia and a love of high-low are not Greco’s only siren calls, though. When it comes to mass-produced pizza, it also happens to hit harder than its competition. Domino’s thinks it offers spice, but in reality delivers a sauce so acidic it sends your teeth filing for divorce from their enamel. Pizza Hut’s crust is so flaccid you feel embarrassed on its behalf while reaching for a knife and fork. Pizza Pizza, Ontario’s entry into the bad-good pizza canon, lacks any distinguishing characteristics that’d help you pick it out of a late-night craving lineup. Greco offers a seesaw of sweet-savoury complexity as its sugary tomato sauce clashes against the bland-yet-saline mozzarella. It has heft, but retains structural integrity. Sometimes you want organic food crafted with care—but sometimes you want the antithesis of that, and you can call 310-30-30 (Greco’s original jingle; it's never bothered to update) to get it.