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COLUMN: Tops in Pizza lives up to its name

Family's passion for pizza, community has benefited Orillia for 48 years

Tops in Pizza. It sounds more like a slogan than a name.

It takes a certain level of confidence to claim, in a name, you’re the best at your craft, but Peter and Toni Marinakos have earned it.

The owners of Tops in Pizza, a staple in Orillia since 1974, found a way to make their food stand out even as pizza shops proliferated over the years.

“Everything we do here is fresh. We don’t get anything from cans, anything that’s processed,” Toni said.

Then, there’s the dough. Customers rave about it — the taste, the texture, the colour. The recipe is one the owners aren’t keen to share.

“Everything has a magic,” Peter said.

Like any respectable magician, he’s keeping his secret. And that’s fine. Just enjoy the show.

When Peter moved to Orillia in the early ’70s, he became a partner in a friend’s restaurant. It eventually became Tops in Pizza, and he expanded to open locations in Angus, Barrie, Bobcaygeon, Fenelon Falls and Midland. The only one remaining is the Orillia spot, and it has kept the couple busy for decades.

Peter still minds the mixer. Toni still assembles pizza at a lightning pace. (She put me to shame during a recent visit but humoured me by saying my pie-making skills were “not bad.”)

While their talents are commendable, Peter and Toni and their staff rely on quality ingredients.

“If we don’t like it, we don’t use it. Plain and simple,” Toni said.

“Quality over quantity,” Peter added.

Pizza is in the company name, but Tops offers much more. Whether it’s pasta or wings or salad or subs, the attention to detail and commitment to quality are the same.

The turkey sub is a fine example. Never mind the deli meat; Toni cooks the turkey herself. She then loads it up with fresh toppings.

The generosity of the Marinakos family extends beyond the amount of food that comes with an order. For decades, they have offered free pizza on Christmas Day to anyone who wants it.

They have also provided free food during the holidays to first responders, hospital staff and the Lighthouse and women’s shelters.

“It makes you feel good. There are a lot of people out there who are suffering,” Toni said. “We don’t expect to get anything back.”

In their view, they’re simply feeding their family.

As Toni put it, “our community is our family, too.”

The good stuff

Most popular: gourmet pizzas (especially the deluxe), pepperoni pizza

Peter Marinakos’s favourite: thin-crust pizza with toppings that vary depending on his mood

My favourite: turkey sub, dough balls with feta, thin-crust pizza with bacon, mushroom and red onion

Nathan Taylor’s local food and drink column appears every other Saturday.