Aldo Lanzillotta

The Dish

Features

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Eastern Promises: hearty, meaty, carb-heavy Eastern European food is Toronto’s next big comfort cuisine

The Way We Eat Now: Eastern Promises

Wvrst Sausage Hall on King West

In the ’60s, Toronto had a bustling Eastern European food scene. Polish, Hungarian and German immigrants opened up humble cafés and grocery stores along Schnitzel Row (the stretch of Bloor between Spadina and Bathurst), in Kensington Market and on Roncesvalles Avenue, servicing mostly the expat community, and a few WASPs who fancied themselves adventurous for ordering fried chicken livers or cabbage rolls. By the ’80s, much of that first wave of Eastern Europeans had retired to the suburbs, taking their goulash and spaetzle with them (RIP Hungarian Goulash Party Tavern). The remaining downtown restaurants, like The Prague on Queen West, have turned into haunts for hungover students scarfing cheap smoked salmon palacinky or doughy pierogies.

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The Dish

New Reviews

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New Reviews: Wvrst and Mavrik

A modern beer-and-sausage hall on King and a quintessential wine bar on Queen

WvrstWVRST $30 Gourmet
609 King St. W., 416-703-7775
Chef Aldo Lanzillotta’s modern “sausage and beer hall and other wonders,” as he’s called it, is exactly what it sounds like: long plywood communal tables and bench seating run the length of the stripped-down space that used to be Marc Thuet’s convict-run restaurant, Conviction. There are 18 house-made sausage options, from traditional (Italian, boerewors, kranjska) to vegetarian (tofu kolbasa that tastes like malnutrition) to game (venison, kangaroo and duck, which tastes like chicken liver). The crowd is young and worldly, for the most part: plaid shirts and Topshop playsuits who see the delicious irony in conservative Bavarian-Italian fare served on King West. The food is good, though limited—fennel-rich pork sausage, for instance, grilled over a gas flame and topped with caramelized onions on a grilled bun. The duck fat–fried French fries are crispy and intensely potato-y, though they’re only marginally different from the ones fried in plain vegetable oil. The beer list, curated by Stephen Beaumont of Beerbistro, is one of the best in town and includes bottlings from Quebec’s outstanding Dieu du ciel microbrewery, plus plenty of local independents like Flying Monkeys, and one-litre steins of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Lanzillotta’s self-service concept is bold and a little annoying. Customers order and pay at the open kitchen, and runners then bring out the food when it’s ready. You have to leave your credit card at the bar or settle your bill each time you get another round. If you want to order more, you have to line up again. “Please tip,” the menu nonetheless advises. “The runners who deliver your food and happily clean up after you would truly appreciate your generosity.”

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: WVRST, King West’s new sausage and beer hall

Wvrst’s dining room features long, communal tables (Image: Signe Langford)

More and more, it seems as though Clubland is outgrowing its old epicentre at the Richmond and John area and oozing west along King Street into what was once a much more sedate dining destination led by Susur, Lee, Marc Thuet’s nom-de-jour resto, Brassaii and Rodney’s. As we reported back in April, it’s into this shifting scene that chef and simple food enthusiast Aldo Lanzillotta has opened his first restaurant, Wvrst, which serves up artisanal sausages and brews in a casual beer hall setting.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Wvrst, a new King West beer hall, to feature menu from “Southern Italy by way of Munich”

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.

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