A couple weeks back, news broke that the space that once held Marc Thuet’s Conviction (which closed last fall and was previously Bite Me! and Bistro and Bakery Thuet) was turning into a loosely interpreted Munich-style beer hall called Wvrst. Recently, we caught up with chef and owner Aldo Lanzillotta to ask him about joining Hogtown’s sausage party.
Although Lanzillotta has an impressive resume (with stints at Susur, Xacutti and Canoe), he’ll be digging into his childhood and family heritage for recipes, inspiration and tradition. “Every fall we would get a pig and the whole family gathered together to make our own pancetta, salami, guanciale. But it wasn’t just about the pork. There was also a lot of sitting around, chatting and drinking espressos.” It’s the sitting around and drinking part that is going to be the focus at Wurst (Lanzillotta currently operates Simpo, a private chef service).
“I’ll be working with sausage makers off-site, to make my recipes and bring them into the kitchen,” Lanzillotta says. He’s currently considering three providers who, he assures us, “have all been in the sausage-making business for about 70 years.”
Lanzillotta is planning on serving rare, heritage and naturally raised meats such as Berkshire, Du Breton and Mangalica pork, as well as Jidori chickens from California. The menu will boast about 15 to 20 different sausages at any given time, including duck and that somewhat-baffling German favourite, currywurst. As well, Lanzillotta is developing vegetarian (curried lentil, topped with minted yogurt) and even vegan sausages.
He also plans to offer two kinds of French fries: vegetarian and double-dipped in duck fat, using the leftover fat from the duck sausages. “I really wanted to use horse fat—like they do in Belgium, where fries were invented,” Lanzillotta says. “When my father was growing up in Calabria, they cooked with horse fat. But it was just too hard to find here with any consistency.”
Lanzillotta has been working on the 4,000-square-foot space since he signed the lease in January, and he hopes to have it open by early May. With 140 seats inside—all at long communal tables—and another 30 or so on the boulevard patio, Lazillotta is banking on selling stein after stein of Canadian, Belgian and German craft-brews, backed by an indie rock and old-school funk soundtrack. He tells us the vibe he’s going for is “modern beer hall.” And the menu? “Southern Italy by way of Munich.”
Wvrst, 609 King St., W., 416-703-7775, wvrst.com.