Life’s a slice for Jack at Bravo Pizza

Jack owner of Bravo Pizza. Photo David Navage.
Jack owner of Bravo Pizza. Photo David Navage.

“If I’d known better, I’d have changed the name.”

“The two great women in my life are my mom, who died last August at age 95, and my wife”.

“I’m not a spring chicken.”

“As long as I have a roof over my head, I’m happy.”

“My mom raised a very honest child. She put the fear of God into me.”

“I want to die in front of my oven.”

No, these are not one-liners from a standup comic. They’re typical quotes from Jack (whose last name is a bit of a well-guarded secret), or Bravo, as most people know him, at Bravo Pizza in the middle of the plaza on Millwood between Randolph and Sutherland. The business has been there since 1969, and owned by Jack since Jan. 2, 1986.

Jack’s Armenian family came to Canada from Cairo in 1967, finding a place to live near Wilson and Avenue Road. When Jack’s father died a few years later, Jack remembers his mother buying three-day-old bread at A&P grocery for 10 cents a loaf, and taking three buses to get to a job that paid very minimal wages. He and his two older brothers did their best to contribute to the household.

Early on, Jack realized that he was prepared to work hard, but that if he worked hard, he wanted it to be for himself, rather than someone else. He was in his early 20s when the opportunity arose to buy Bravo, and he snapped it up. In those early days, the business wasn’t making money, so his mother would come to Bravo to work, and he also parlayed a courier job to make ends meet. Then, through improving his product and by virtue of hard work, Bravo found its niche.

While the shop closes at midnight, Jack is often on site until 3 a.m. prepping vegetables for the next day or making his special tomato sauce. His wife comes in a few days a week to help out as well.

A wide network of suppliers makes Bravo Pizza special – among them Armenian sausage from Montreal, Hank’s soft drinks from Pennsylvania, Kawartha Dairy ice cream (starting from the days when it was a very small, unknown company), various torshi (Arab or Persian pickles), originally from Lebanon. 

Bravo is now a Leaside fixture. Jack tells the story of university students who insist their parents stop at Bravo for pizza as they are being driven home for school breaks. Or the man who comes in with his family, and wonders if he’s remembered from when he was a kid. Of course!

The advent of food delivery services during Covid turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Bravo. Jack went from using his own drivers to deliver locally to using the various other food delivery companies to expand his reach.

One holdover from his early days at Bravo? There is no phone number listed for the business – advice from one of his brothers. If you’re not using a delivery service, you need to make your choices in person.

About Lorna Krawchuk 177 Articles
Lorna Krawchuk is publisher of Leaside Life. She is actively involved in St. Cuthbert’s Church. Her volunteer activities with the Leaside Property Owners’ Association led to her being elected a Councillor in the Borough of East York for 9 years before amalgamation in 1998. She also held a variety of volunteer leadership positions with the Girl Guides of Canada for over 30 years. Lorna has been a Leasider since 1968.