TLDR: Sex is great and all, but have you ever had Romeo’s Pizza? romeos.ca
In the late 1980’s, the Ring Road at the University of Victoria was far less developed then it is now; the green pastoral outer edges where the raccoons gathered and feasted. Late at night it was mostly dark, and quiet (except for one naked freshman – save his nike’s – going for a jog – at least once). And the ubiquitous presence of the little blue gladiator cars – VW bugs I believe, with their huge lighted gladiator lights on top. They could (and probably should) have represented another well known trademark item being delivered to the dorms, but it was the slightly historically askew logo representing a local pizza chain, Romeo’s, delivering all kinds of pizza to the student body. Late night study pizza; post keg night soak up the beer to reduce the inevitable hangover for the Friday, 8:30a Sociology 100 quiz (RIP Prof. Hagedorn you cruel, cruel, man); floor party pizzas; you get the drift. UVIC student budgets (if they had one) should have had a separate line item just for Romeo’s pizza.
I ate a lot of Romeo’s pizza in the day. Delivered to campus, in the smoking section of the slightly shabby original Hillside location, in the downtown spot that stayed open till 4am to catch the tipsy and footsore clubgoers after a night of shooters and dancing. The Saturday/Sunday 3 am scene at Romeo’s Johnson Street had everything – the overly drunk crying girl (sometime me), chest bumping and high fiving guys, and often words were had from table to table. It was great. So was the pizza.
Or so I always believed. 35 years later, starving and stuck for an open late go to spot for late supper, I took my husband to the Hillside location for a bite. We were in town celebrating our 22nd anniversary in one of those late summer gaps in Covid shutdowns in 2020. It dawned on me that I really wasn’t certain if I’d ever eaten Romeo’s pizza sober, and maybe it was actually shit and not THE shit.
The Hillside location was a revelation. A 2014 reno transformed it into a chic but fairly standard modern chain style restaurant decor. Deep earthy tones, stone walls, and a long shiny bar at centre stage. Comfortable, if a bit bland. Miles away from the formica and threadbare booths I remembered from 1988. But the real test – the pizza.
Hubby and I ordered the Romeo’s Special, because that’s what you order from Romeo’s. My taste in men may have been questionable with a gut full of cheap keg beer, but it turns out my taste in pizza was dead on. Thick pan pizza crust, golden brown on the bottom and crisp, a challenge for a deep dish style pizza. Toppings fresh, thick and cheese for days. A well seasoned sauce that doesn’t taste like runny ketchup (I see you, sauce in a tube joints). It was everything I remembered and more.
Updated for today’s crowd, they offer gluten free crust options. They do not have vegan cheese options (vegetarian, but not vegan) – but if anyone out there has had such a monstrosity that bears any resemblance to real pizza, feel free to drop a line in the comments.
I returned in November with my Mom, and texted a picture to the Hub to make him jealous, but sadly the photo was lost in the transfer to a new phone. You’ll have to make do with this snip from their website.
They do appear to make other types of food, and I’m sure they’re quite good but I’m ride or die for the Romeo’s Special.
A suitably modernized gladiator helmet remains part of the logo, although I’m still trying to make the connection between the ancient version of Seal Team Six and the Shakespearean teenager who met his end via poison. I’ll try not to think too hard on it, and you do the same. Just eat the damn pizza.