For years, I’d been hearing about Panago Pizza from friends in Western Canada where it’s an institution. With almost 180 locations out west, the chain is making its way eastward with the Ottawa location joining others in southern Ontario and the Maritimes.
My key criteria for takeout are ‘fast’ and ‘fresh’ and my first Panago experience definitely fit the bill. Their Old Ottawa South location opens on January 13; it offers takeout as well as delivery to a broad swath of the centre of the city. Thus far, I’ve tasted two pizzas – the Chipotle Chicken and the Veggie Mediterranean; both were flavourful with a pleasing blend of toppings. The honey-garlic wings were a big hit at my house as well.
I met briefly with owners at their soft launch on January 12 and they were as abuzz with excitement as the neighbouring business owners who were welcoming them to the area while enjoying complimentary pizza. Ottawa native Mohammed Hammad and his Jordanian-born wife Alia Al Shehabi spent two years researching various franchise opportunities before selecting Panago and finding the right neighbourhood in which to open.
"We really wanted a Canadian brand,” explains Alia. “We also loved that the Panago menu is full of chef-inspired creations, which really appealed to me as I am passionate about food.” Alia will handle the day to day operations, while Mohammed is providing the business acumen that they anticipate will lead to opening additional local Panago locations in the next few years.
Here are five quick reasons why Panago might appeal to you:
Attention to allergies: the company’s commitment to transparency is impressive; all ingredient information is published on their website. There are no peanuts or tree nuts used in any products and Panago offers a “gluten-smart” crust made with tapioca starch, whole grain sorghum and sweet rice flour. While this product does not contain gluten, their open concept kitchens means those with celiac disease or extreme gluten intolerance should be aware that cross-contamination is possible.
Vegetarians and vegans welcome: There are loads of veggie pizza options and the menu possibilities even include thoughtful touches like meat-free pepperoni and dairy-free Daiya Cheeze.
Customization is key: Choose from original Hand-tossed, Italian thin or Thick crust, multigrain or gluten-smart crust; pizzas come in dozens of pre-designed combos or you can design your own. Select from five fresh-cut salads or jump on the ‘build your own’ bandwagon. A dazzling array of dips and shakers lets you customize your flavour experience.
Back to Basics: Panago says it’s all about restaurant-quality takeout cuisine that lets you customize your meal to meet your dietary needs. Plus, they don’t use MSG, artificial flavours or colours. While the range of pizzas is impressive, the salads are no mere afterthought – they’re substantial and fresh. There’s even an array of organic juices.
Sweet stuff: Panago’s offers two delightful dessert options: their classic Sweet Cinnamon Twisted Torizoné breadsticks, as well as their new Chocolate Chunk Pretzel Cookie with creamy caramel dip.