There is an art to the Italian food scene in Toronto. From the best grocers, bakeries, and restaurants housed in art museums and heritage buildings, to the poetic presentations and wine pairings for each meal served, Italian restaurateurs are passionate about creating a beautiful experience that matches the taste of the food. So if you’re in Toronto and looking for the perfect panino con prosciutto, craving cacio e pepe and a glass of vino rosso, or all of the above, we’ve got you covered. Just like all of the best restaurants in Italy — go for the food, and stay for the experience.
Familia Baldassare might have to be the closest to Italy that you’ll get in Toronto. A “speakeasy pasta joint” that’s only open for lunch to the public from 12-2, Familia Baldassare has mastered the art of pasta making. From the most gorgeous filled mezzalunas and ravioli, to the bronze die cuts of rigatoni and canestri, Baldassare prides itself on the quality and attention to detail on each shape of pasta. Providing their pasta to the best restaurants in the city, and with a lunch menu that changes daily – it’s best to line up early. Cross your fingers for the spinach and ricotta filled ravioli, and pick up a loaf of bread and fresh tomato sauce for the best scarpetta.
If you’re in the mood for a plate of cacio e pepe and a cozy glass of Chianti (and let’s be honest – who isn’t?), then you have to pay a visit to Enoteca Sociale. Enoteca specialises in classic Roman cuisine and is even equipped with its own cheese cellar. A salumi board with olives marinated in vino, fresh rosemary focaccia, and glass of sparkling is a must, before diving into the cacio e pepe, which is equal parts creamy and spicy. And because we can’t forget about dolce, try their homemade cannoli with whipped lemon ricotta.
There is nothing better than the smell of rustic Italian sourdough bread on a Saturday morning. With 2 locations in the city, Mattachioni is an amalgamation of an Italian bodega, bakery, and a restaurant. Pick up your pantry essentials (espresso beans, dried pasta, fresh produce), and then make sure to order the Scapece panini – made with pickled eggplant and ricotta on fresh sourdough. Or, if you want to try the city’s best wood oven pizza – try the S. Stefanelli with prosciutto crudo and fresh stracciatella.
Another hybrid grocery store, restaurant, bakery, and salumeria, Stock T.C. is set inside a 20,000 square foot Art Deco space that once was home to a postal service. The tall, white marble walls are lined with loaves of fresh olive bread and seasonal produce. Fresh pasta is handmade on site, and ready to go with a variety of accompanying homemade sauces. On a Sunday afternoon, order the Barese style focaccia with fresh mortadella, pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers, and then ask the sommelier to help you find the perfect bottle of primitivo.
It’s only right that one of their locations is situated in the Museum of Contemporary Art, because Forno Cultura specialises in the most beautiful panini and Italian desserts you will ever see in the city. Behind the display case, you’ll see arrangements of prosciutto, porchetta, and soppressata sandwiches made on their filoncini croccanti di semola e sesame. And for desert, choose from the endless rows of pear, plum, and almond crostata, classic cannoli, or a personal favorite – appolini sfoglia con crema.
When you walk into Seven Numbers, you immediately feel like you’re walking into an old family-run trattoria in southern Italy. Mama Rosa, a neighbourhood celebrity, cooks in the window, waving and chatting with the locals. The exposed brick walls are lit with candlesticks in old wine bottles, and the smell of her award winning lasagna lingers in the air. The perfect spot for a long Italian-style family dinner – go for the osso bucco, linguine with rapini and cherry tomatoes, and of course, the lasagna which tastes like a Sunday afternoon at Nonna’s.
If you’re looking for that perfect date spot, Osteria Rialto has to be at the top of your list. Set in part of a 1937 Art Deco heritage theatre, Rialto’s white twinkling lights and the geometric black and white tiled floors give you a feeling of both romance and nostalgia. Their menu is modern, with pasta supplied from Baldassare and dishes from Liguria, Emilia-Romania, Tuscany, and Rome. Try their classic cacio e pepe arancini, and if you go in the early summer – order their corzetti al pesto and finish off with some of the city’s best mulberry gelato.