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Introducing: Church Aperitivo Bar, an Italian kitchen and bar in a (former) Queen West church

Mixologist Scott Talbot pours church-inspired drinks along the marble-clad bar (Image: Simone Olivero)

It’s been nearly a year since we first noticed the permit signs on the long-abandoned Slavic church at the corner of Queen and Dovercourt. Having walked by the vacant property for years, Sandra Cassaro and David Beddia finally took the plunge on it last January, hoping to build a sophisticated yet unpretentious place to have drinks with friends. With backgrounds in construction and marketing and event planning (Cassaro has worked with Liberty Entertainment Group and Ink Entertainment), these childhood friends recruited Italy-born chef Fabio Sacca to help them create their menu of Italian small plates.

Similar to a North American “happy hour,” Aperitivo Italiano has been gaining popularity across Europe for the last few years. Complimentary appetizers are served in the early evening, accompanied by light alcoholic drinks, as a way to unwind prior to dinner. Church will be holding Aperitivo Italiano from 5 to 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday to Saturday, with complimentary small dishes like stuffed mushrooms, mini pizzas, crostini and arancini alongside a cocktail menu featuring church-themed drinks such as “The Holy Caesar” ($10) and “Salvation” ($12), made with gin, Campari, muddled cucumber, rosemary and a splash of soda. A regular menu of more refined small dishes will be available outside that time featuring items like traditional meatballs ($8), spaghetti ($11), beef carpaccio ($8) and braised octopus ($12).

Staying true to its holy roots, Church looks very much like a church. Designer Guido Costantino (responsible for Buca on King West) worked closely with Cassaro and Beddia to keep as much of the original structure in place as possible. The main entrance is through the arched double doors, and inside, the restaurant is divided by a centre aisle that separates the bar from the seating area. A large cutout in the ceiling reveals the original wood beams of the church and leads up to the altar where, appropriately enough in our chef-worshipping times, the kitchen is now housed. With nary a pew in sight, the bar has a contemporary vibe, with dim lighting and loud music: of course, instead of the sound of a choir ringing out on Sunday morning, there’s a DJ who spins on Thursday, Friday and Saturday until the wee hours.

Church Aperitivo Bar, 1090 Queen St. W., 416-537-1090, churchaperitivobar.com

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