Last month, restaurateurs Mary McGugan, Bryan Burke and Ted Koutsogiannopoulos, owners of Hank’s, Great Burger Kitchen, Wine Bar and the still new-ish McGugan’s, opened their third spot along Gerrard Street: Aprilé Bambina Cucina, named after McGugan and Koutsogiannopoulos’s daughter April. The cozy 40-seat restaurant serves rustic Italian food, which McGugan tells us is inspired by the Italian families she grew up around in Welland. “Everyone always ate in the basement kitchen on those chrome chairs and the food just blew you away with its simplicity and quality.”
Burke, the chef, has created a menu of simple Italian classics dominated by pasta ($12–18) and pizzas ($13–16) which draw on culinary traditions from across the country. He sources naturally raised, local meats as well as sustainable seafood and carefully chosen imports. “I blind-tasted dozens of kinds of canned Roma tomato for our red sauce,” Burke told us, “and turns out the best is a California-grown Italian-American cultivar.” Some of the pastas—like ravioli, pappardelle and gnocchi—are made in-house, while the rest are quality dry Italian imports, and the pizza dough is made from the “00” flour that pizza purists insist on.
Inside, the room harkens back to classic Italian-American eateries, with various kitschy pieces sourced from Goodwill, ReStore, Winners and even the side of the road. There are also vintage movie posters McGugan picked up from a street vendor in Rome and, yes, a Vespa hanging over the front door, illuminating the way in. Ultimately, Burke tells us, they set out to create a comfortable, neighbourhood restaurant. “We all live in the ’hood and we built the kind of place we like to go to and we serve the kind of food we like to eat.”
Aprilé Bambina Cucina, 1054.5 Gerrard St. E., 647-352-6969, aprilebambina.com