After years of feeding Leslievillers at Lil’ Baci, restaurateur (and filmmaker) Mark Bacci has headed north, opening up midtown’s Lil’ Baci Taverna. Planted on a corner lot on Yonge between Eglinton and Davisville, the Italian restaurant’s younger sibling has cut down on pizza and beefed up pretty much everything else. Inspired by the flavours and ingredients of southern Italy’s cuisine, Taverna aims to be a neighbourhood eatery straight out of a heart-warming Italian flick.
Designer Suresh Singh outfitted the light-filled space with wood and marble-topped tables. Subway tiles cover an accent wall, while Italian city names are boldly spelled out in the back. Bacci used muriatic acid on the mirrors to create an antiqued effect—although breathing in the powerful stuff left him ill for two days. An open kitchen is visible from all the seats, while another, less open one fills up the basement. Still in the works are an upstairs space for private functions and a wraparound patio out front.
Weary of Italian cuisine having become synonymous with pizza, Bacci and chef Larry Santos (Terroni, Mangia e Bevi) have built an extensive 50-dish menu that diverts from usual Italian suspects. “The food comes out when it’s ready,” Bacci stresses, noting that the menu has been built to encourage sharing. A charcuterie board features house-smoked duck bresaola, duck and pork pâté, mortadella with pistachios and testa (pig’s head) with pistachio gremolata ($17.95). Vegetable options include fava beans, Swiss chard and garlic ($5.95), while the pan-roasted Mennonite chicken dish arrives with olives, tomato and jus ($16.95). For those who can’t resist the call of pizza, the funghi version pairs cremini, shimeji and oyster mushrooms with taleggio, and is topped with truffle oil ($17.95). Dessert picks include vanilla panna cotta with cherries cooked in port, pistachios, and dark chocolate. Bacci tells us there’s more where that came from—an on-location sweets shop is currently on his to-do list.