The duo behind the popular Table 17 has just opened another restaurant with a number in its name, Enoteca Ascari 26. Chef John Sinopoli and business partner Erik Joyal, at 35 and 37, respectively, already have three restaurants under their belts. During their 20s, they opened Front Street’s Izakaya (which they later sold; it’s now Le Papillon on Front). In 2008 they charmed Leslieville with Table 17, offering rustic French fare with local Ontario ingredients. Their new wine bar feels like a boy’s dream come true: a pasta restaurant named after a fallen hero, famed Italian Formula One driver Alberto Ascari.
Ascari’s face is everywhere in the new restaurant: on the sign, on the menu, on the coasters. And why not? He brings a kind of La Dolce Vita vibe to a space that’s otherwise understated, with a grey-on-grey palette courtesy of J. Gibson Design. The 30-seat room has high charcoal banquettes, dark grey quartz tables and a white marble bar surrounding the open kitchen, with accents in black here and there. Joyal and sommelier Svetlana Atcheva (Ruby Watchco, Delux, Terroni) will take care of the front of house, including the constantly evolving wine list. Expect about 20 options by the glass as well as a healthy roster of Italian and Ontario bottles.
Sinopoli’s menu is designed to respect the Canadian seasons while honouring the cuisine of his homeland. “I’ll be using a lot of local products—100 Km Foods, Kawartha Ecological Growers, Ontario wines, Ontario kiwis—but I’ll also be bringing in imports of Italian specialities,” he told us. Some of the cured meats on his salumi platter, for example, are made by the artisans at Loconte Meat Market, in Woodbridge, while others are hard-to-find imports. Appetizers that encourage sharing include the baccala fritti ($11), crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside orbs of deep-fried salt cod, potato and béchamel, served with a lemony basil and black pepper mayo. And while the menu jumps around Italy, Sinopoli plays particular homage to his Abruzzan mother, with a traditional spaghetti alla chitarra ($15) (spaghetti cut on a guitar-like contraption), which he serves in a homemade tomato sauce with pecorino di Sardegna. Oh, and in case you’re dying to know: 26 is the number of Ascari’s car.
Enoteca Ascari 26, 1111 Queen St. E., 416-792-4157, ascarienoteca.ca