I’m standing outside 176 Wicksteed Ave., looking for Conspiracy Pizza. There is no pizza to be seen. I know it’s next to Adamson Barbecue and I’ve read about the pizzas: the ones with the heavy names and murky pasts.
The Grassy Knoll, named after the location of the suspected other shooter in the John F. Kennedy assassination plot. Egg Trails, a play on the term “chemtrails,” the theory that aircraft leave bad stuff in our air. The Day of Deceit, from the Pearl Harbour conspiracy that Roosevelt let Japan invade America. Big Parma, a play on “Big Pharma,” a term used to describe pharmaceutical industry thugs. I want to believe. The Men In Black may already have been here. Just as I was about to abort the mission, someone came to let me in. All systems go.
Upon arrival I was told that proper signage for Conspiracy Pizza is on the way, but for now, the enigmatic allure of the shop sells itself. Adam Skelly is known for bringing “legit Texas barbecue” to Leaside, so what inspired him to go for the big dough?
“We had plans to rent out the space next to Adamson Barbecue to another pizzeria,” he said, but after they backed out, Adam decided to run with it. “I thought it was such a good idea, that pizza would do so well here and would be great for the neighbourhood. I grew up in Leaside and had faith that pizza would kill in here, so we decided to do it ourselves.” From there began the journey of learning how to make awesome pizzas, with even more awesome names.
The bestseller “by a long shot” is the pepperoni, mostly because “people who aren’t sure about us are going to try the pepperoni first, then go from there,” said Dan Rios, Adam’s right-hand at the pizza shop.
Other top sellers include the vegetarian Grassy Knoll, a mix of red, green and Tuscan kale, mixed sautéed mushrooms and mozzarella, topped with parmesan and sunchoke cream. Big Parma, new to the roster since July, is another, with charred corn purée, cured capocollo (or coppa) ham, garlic scapes, mozzarella and fresh parmesan. United Fruit Company has also been a summer hit, with Ontario peaches, bacon, basil, fresh mint and Manchego cheese. I could go on, but I’ve already revealed too much.
Conspiracy Pizza doesn’t do substitutions because you can do that at almost any other pizzeria. If you want to take some ingredients off – no problem – but you can’t build your own.
They put me to work at the toppings station, as I felt I wasn’t ready for dough-tossing just yet. The phone started ringing right at 4:30 and soon we had a lineup of orders waiting for the oven.
Conspiracy uses their own house-cured ham and other meats from Adamson Barbecue, so the only toppings from the “outside world” besides the pickles are the pepperoni from Venetian Meats in Hamilton.
I had a chance to make and taste the Grassy Knoll. The Italian Caputo pizza flour was perfectly crispy and the mushrooms, kale and sunchoke cream made it the most decadent vegetarian pizza I’ve ever tasted. My second favourite is the spiciest one! The Steel Beams, with 3 different kinds of hot peppers, Anaheim chilis and Adamson jalepeño cheddar sausage. Sounds like a lot, but it fits nicely on the wheel – and in my mouth.
Every few months Conspiracy reviews the lowest sellers, adding or removing from the roster. What may be in store for autumn? Dan said it will be squash season soon so keep an eye out for new fall flavours.
Despite the bright lights, banquet tables and a huge conspiracy mural, created by “self-taught artist, professional doodler” and Adamson Barbecue cashier Melissa Ford, some people doubt they’re really open, like me.
“People still walk in here, buy pizza and ask, ‘when do you guys open?’” Adam joked. It’s no wonder since the bottom of each receipt reads, “If you tell anyone about us, we’ll have to kill you.”
Until next time…for science!