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Introducing: F’Amelia, Cabbagetown’s cozy new Italian restaurant (with a kitchen of ex-Splendido chefs)

Outside John Dawson and Todd Vestby’s new Cabbagetown Italian restaurant (Image: Renée Suen)

During the first week of operations for F’Amelia, a new Cabbagetown Italian restaurant owned by locals John Dawson (formerly of Table 17) and Todd Vestby, the house served over a 100 covers a night—without any press. With the restaurant’s grand opening slated for next week, we stopped by for a look at what has the neighbourhood abuzz.

It took only five weeks for Dawson and Vestby to renovate the cozy Amelia Street space, which is separated into a 68-person main dining area and bar and 32-seat closed-in porch equipped with natural gas heating to allow for outdoor service until mid-November. The walls of the former Provence Délices have been stripped of their painted glass tiles and replaced with raw oak boards for a rustic Italian vibe (only the chipped floor tiles and the wine cellar hint at the place’s former life). The private cellar dining room gives up to 20 diners a first-hand view of the pizzaioli at work, while the eight-seat reclaimed butcher block bar serves an affordable selection of wines ($38-$175), beers ($6-$7) and cocktails ($12-$15).

The long dining room’s showpiece is the maple- and applewood-burning pizza oven imported from Naples. The 3,700-pound monster is equipped with a stone bottom and cooks each pizza in 90 seconds flat (after which a charming cast iron bell is rung to call for pickup). We’re told that F’Amelia’s pizzas will eventually gain Neapolitan certification (as at Pizzeria Libretto) as they already use DOP ingredients. The restaurant has also used the oven to roast whole porchettas and expects to serve firewood-roasted chickens in the winter.

In the kitchen, executive chef Maurizio Verga (Splendido)—alongside sous-chefs James Harrison (Splendido) and Michael Angeloni (Black Hoof, Splendido)—serves mostly traditional Northern Italian dishes, using local produce (Vicki’s Veggies and 100km Foods). The menu sticks to the five-ingredient rule, with nearly everything made in-house, including the charcuterie ($18), eight fresh pastas ($10-$21) and 11 pizzas ($12.50–$22). Even the bread—focaccia, grissini and the Sardinia-style flatbreads on the cheese platter—is baked at the restaurant daily. Verga, a native of Bergamo, has trained in top international establishments (Nobu, Shumi), but he turned to his mother’s recipes for the pappardelle with braised rabbit ($15/$19) and tiramisu ($8). The largely seasonal menu is rounded out by some heftier options, like a branzino ($30) and a 60-day dry-aged rib-eye from Cumbrae’s ($34).

A final note: patrons trying their darndest to parse the restaurant’s Italian-sounding name should give up. Dawson explained that it was cleverly coined by his wife:  “She said, ‘Why don’t we put an F in front of the street name?’ and I said, ‘That’s a brilliant idea!’ ”

F’Amelia, 12 Amelia St., 416-323-0666, famelia.com

Our Introducing series explores newly opened restaurants, bars and shops throughout the GTA
This is not a review.
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  • Alex

    I am so excited for this. There really aren’t to many options in Cabbagetown…this almost seems too good to be true.

  • Shirley

    We live out of town and will be coming to the city in the near future, I would like to see a menu regarding the pasta dishes as my husband has limited swallowing abilities, but pasta is one dish he loves/ Would it be possible for you to produce a menu on this page? Thank You.

  • jaydee
  • Let down diner

    I was really looking forward to trying out F’Amelia, our new local restaurant in Cabbagetown. I decided to take my family and we couldn’t believe how horrible the service was. Three tables arrived after us and left before us. The waitress took half of the drink orders and left the rest of us to wait. Our appetizers arrived in good time, and an hour later our pizza and wrong pasta dish arrived. Somehow the corrected pasta dish arrived five minutes later, after we voiced our discontent. I guess our original order was never put in. A weak apology was received with a substantial bill. To be fair the food is very good, but the staff need some major training or this place will not last!

  • Jsjtrip

    Just dined for the 4th time at F’Amelia, each time with different friends (it’s my local and I want to show it iff!) and I couldn’t disagree more with ‘letdown diner’. The service is friendly, attentive and knowledgeable. I have had several different servers and they have all been great. The food is excellent and reasonably priced for a downtown location. The atmosphere is lively and it’s always packed so I think they’ll be around for a long time. This is so great for Cabbagetown, well done F’Amelia!

  • cabbagetowner

    Stick with the pizza, it’s quite good. Not so sure about rest of the menu though…carpaccio was terrible, told panzanella was great, it wasn’t(surprising as tomatos in season). Agree it is definitely nice to have a restaurant in the ‘hood. Prices high for what you get, not a place to frequent midweek.

  • Local eater

    I’m so happy they moved into the neighbourhood. I love the food and the service is fine other than being a bit precious about the menu. One night I accidentally ordered a pizza that doesn’t come with cheese and when I got it I apologetically asked them to throw it back into the oven for a minute with some cheese. They were pretty snooty about it and ended up throwing some cold cheese on top and giving it back to me. Another night I ordered the lovely lamb sausage served with a delicious ratatouille and I asked for some mustard (thinking a nice grainy, maybe dijon) and the waitress was all flapped, shocked really, and came back and said the kitchen had no mustard. Seems a little odd. But once they get over themselves, the place will be perfect.

  • disappointed

    We were very excited to try this place and reserved a table for the New Year’s prix fixe menu. Sad to say, the $75 spent was a waste and not how I wanted to ring in the new year. Starters and dessert were decent but the seafood linguine main was dry, flavourless and seemed like it had sat out for 15 minutes before being served. We were actually quite shocked with how bad it was. As someone who is happy to shell out more money for fantastic food and appreciates simple dishes with quality ingredients, we expected way more. F’Amelia was just a major letdown.

  • Jarek

    This was my second visit. On the first one the food was inspired and full of great flavours. Went on a quiet night and late so even though the service was unprofessional it was tolerable. Second visit was an overall disappointing restaurant experience. I went with a larger group and we were not allowed to order outside of set menu. Their set menu food choices were mostly bland and uninspired (stay far away from the lasagna or bring a jar of Prego to help it out…). Being forced to choose from limited selection of bland menu items was bad. But the truly insulting part was that the $45 set menu actually priced out to be $35 on their regular menu! Two pregnant women at the table were not allowed to make any substitutions either but they would allow them to order additional items after we paid for the preset menus first. To explain why the waiter had said that the already prepared items for our group ( how they knew what we would order in advance was a true psychic miracle). It did not end there but you get the picture – any restaurant needs to do much better on food or service. I find it a real shame that they are still busy Given a large number of great Italian restaurants in the city that aspire above just being OK, do take your money where you get your money’s worth… Not another cent of mine will go to these clowns.

  • Luke

    I went recently on recommendation from this magazine. Big let down. All our food was average: the grilled squid appetizer (tiny portion), manacotti (bland..flavourless meat), risotto (too al dente). The drinking water was delicious though. Skipped dessert because we didn’t want another disappointment.
    The host asked us if we’d be back…I lied and said yes. I’ll stick with TERRONI.. I always have a gr8 experience there.

 

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