Nearly two years in the making, the much-anticipated second location of Pizzeria Libretto has opened on the Danforth in what was once the Iliada Café, bringing a little Ossington buzz to the east side. Not wanting to create a cookie-cutter copy of the original location, chef Rocco Agostino has introduced a host of new dishes to the menu, but we have a feeling people will be more excited about another feature new to the chain: reservations.
In the kitchen is chef de cuisine Luigi Encarnacion, who recently worked the same post at C5 under Ted Corrado. Agostino, the executive chef, continues to oversee the kitchens of both Pizzeria Librettos, and has backed off from sister restaurant Enoteca Sociale now that Grant van Gameren is holding down the fort there. Although there’s no lack of high-tech devices like immersion circulators in the kitchen—the Cumbrae’s beef short ribs ($16) are cooked sous-vide for three days—you would never know it, and that’s the point. Encarnacion’s menu is in keeping with the Libretto charm: simple food with bold flavours, no matter how modernist or complicated the execution may be behind the scenes. Signature items on the new menu include an anchovy crostino with eggplant, red pepper, confit tomato and bufala ricotta ($8), a pork belly pizza with smoked tomato ragoût, mozzarella, bomba, caramelized onions and lemon thyme ($15) and Encarnacion’s favourite, the Papa Luigi pizza with tomato, speck, gorgonzola and red pepper ($16). Last but not least, there’s Libretto’s famous tiramisu ($7) and homemade gelatos like Nutella with a swirl of caramelized white chocolate ($7).
Behind Libretto’s new look was New York design firm Andre Kikoski Architects, which recently worked on The Wright, the new restaurant at the Guggenheim. In the dining room, one wall is painted a dark wrought-iron colour while the opposing one contrasts with white-painted exposed bricks. Lamps made by Castor Design from reclaimed fire extinguishers illuminate the oak tables and the Emeco 111 Navy chairs (made from 111 recycled plastic Coca-Cola bottles). At the back in the open kitchen, a pair of wood-burning ovens, imported from Italy, keeps the room supplied with freshly blistered pies. Also new at this location, a downstairs lounge for those waiting for a table (cocktails and appetizers are served here), as well as a semi-private dining room for a groups of up to 12. A patio is in the works for next summer. As for the next Pizzeria Libretto location, Rimaldi is already eyeing areas north of the downtown core.
Pizzeria Libretto, 550 Danforth Ave., 416-466-0400, danforth.pizzerialibretto.com