PANCHO’S PIZZA AND PASTA
1945 McKercher Dr.
The wide and wonderful world of pizza offers aficionados a ton of choice: thin crust pizzas with gourmet ingredients, wonderful home-cooked pizzas, deep dish Chicago-style and Vern’s-type pizza with meat piled as high as your head, just to name a few. And that’s not even starting to get into the endless types of toppings you can choose from.
But sometimes, I just want a straight-up, “normal” pie — one with a decent ratio of crust to toppings, cooked with fresh and tasty ingredients. While there are a ton of places to order from in Saskatoon, I struck pizza gold this week when a friend told me about Pancho’s Pizza, which is tucked away on McKercher, past Taylor.
I’m told they only deliver to the surrounding neighbourhood, but Pancho’s is well worth going out of the way for pick-up. (FYI: it’s solely a takeout and delivery joint, with no in-restaurant seating.) Recently, Jenny and I were coming home from a trip to Regina, and not exactly excited to make dinner, so we called up Pancho’s and ordered both pizza and a bunch of other items from their menu.
When we got into their little strip mall location, we were greeted by three young ladies who were all smiles and friendliness (and Jenny thought she also spied Pancho himself in the back). A nice greeting may not seem like a big deal, but when you’ve been grunted at by a surly counterperson at other restaurants, you come to realize that the little details of service really stand out. People come back to businesses where they’re treated well, so Pancho’s was already racking up points with me.
First up, I should note that Pancho’s has a sea of topping choices. The staff recommended the anchovy and mushroom, which was definitely enticing, but we decided to save that for another time. In the end, we opted for the Canadian pizza, which featured pepperoni, bacon, mushrooms and cheese.
Good choice — because it was one of the best straight-up pizzas I’ve had in a long time, with a perfect amount of delicious toppings laid out on a crispy golden crust. The best part about Pancho’s pie was that it wasn’t greasy in the slightest. Too often, these types of pizzas are slathered in enough grease to make the box see-through (“Your window to weight gain!” to quote Dr. Nick from The Simpsons), but Pancho’s was perfect. I’ll definitely be trying more flavours of their pizza — especially the anchovy version we skipped this time around.
Along with the pizza we also tried the empanada (which was the size of your hand) — folded dough stuffed with a savoury filling of onions, black olives and a well-seasoned ground beef. It was excellent — the only oddity being that I found one lonely, small ball of mozza cheese inside: either it wasn’t supposed to be there, or there should have been a larger amount of them. I thought it went well with the rest of the filling, so I’m going to guess it was supposed to be there, and there was simply a mixup when it came to putting the correct amount of them in the empanada. Either way, the dough tasted fresh and the filling was delicious. It had several different flavour tones, all of which played well on the overall simplicity.
Because we were on a roll, we also tried the spaghetti and toast. (They have lasagna as well, by the way.) The spaghetti was decent although it lacked any real seasoning, meaning it didn’t quite measure up to our other dishes.
On the upside, the spaghetti came with a beautiful layer of melted cheese on top, which really added flavour and a pleasant texture. On the downside, the toast (which was just a regular slice of bread), was burnt through. With all the food we’d ordered we didn’t miss it, but I might have been miffed if I was just ordering the spaghetti and nothing else. I didn’t mind the spaghetti dish overall, but it wasn’t quite on par with the rest of Pancho’s fare.
Finally, we grabbed some cheese sticks and sauce as a side. I know what you’re thinking: when you order cheese sticks from a fast food pizza place, you often get those greasy, processed chemical blobs of dough. But not here — both Jenny and I really enjoyed Pancho’s cheese sticks, which were light, fresh dough with cheese baked on and a simple tomato sauce for dipping. Again, they were sumptuous and a little bit sinful, without being greasy.
Now, here’s the real kicker: as you’ve probably noticed, we ordered enough food to feed an army (or at least a small Grey Cup party) — and not only was this a higher-quality meal than your average takeout place, the price was a mere $30.00! Amazing, especially considering the obvious love that Pancho puts into his food.
From the friendly service to well-made food at a great price, Pancho’s Pizza and Pasta knows how to treat their customers. I can see why people in the neighbourhood would want to keep this their little secret — but sorry folks, I’ve got to let the cat out of the bag, because I think everyone in Saskatoon needs to know about this hidden gem.