Fabio Bondi

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Alternalicious: a roundup of Winterlicious 2013’s prix fix rebels

Bent’s braised spiced short ribs, one of the critic-endorsed picks on their Susurlicious menu (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

Winterlicious can be a double-edged sword for diners. Yes, there’s the prospect of great deals that you’d never get otherwise—except during Summerlicious—but the crowds are thick, the servers are frazzled and the ’licious menu doesn’t always measure up to the usual fare. For years, some restaurants have opted to keep the deals but skip the chaos, responding to Winterlicious with prix fixes of their own. We’ve rounded up the best of them below.

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Food Events

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Weekly Eater: Toronto food events for November 12 to 18

The Gourmet Food and Wine Expo kicks off on Thursday (Image: Courtesy Food and Wine Expo)

Monday, November 12

  • Monday Night Dinners at Local Kitchen and Wine Bar: Every Monday night, Local Kitchen serves a $40 prix fixe menu of Italian fare with half-price wine bottles and no corkage fee. 1710 Queen St. W., 416-534-6700. Find out more »
  • 86’D With Ivy Knight: Fourth annual Pickle Battle. Bring in your best professional or amateur brined cuke. The Drake, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042. Find out more »

 

Tuesday, November 13

  • Mario Batali’s Fall Classics: Learn the basics for great Italian meals, like tomato and grilled zucchini stacks and Batali-inspired tomato sauce from scratch. The Chef Upstairs, 516 Mount Pleasant Rd., 416-544-9221. Find out more »
  • From Wing to Tip: Chef Rodney Bowers presents new and exciting ways to prepare family-style chicken dishes using only the best local, organic chicken. He’ll also demonstrate how to make chicken stock and a quick fall soup—not to mention Shanghai chicken thigh lettuce tacos. LCBO Summerhill, 10 Scrivener Sq., 416-922-0403. Find out more »
  • GE Café Chef Series—Pasta Party With Fabio Bondi: A series of workshops connecting eaters to the unique terroir, chefs and food culture of southern Ontario. This week, chef Fabio Bondi of Local Kitchen and Wine Bar and Bar Salumi shares his knowledge and experience in pasta making and Italian cuisine. Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Ave. Find out more »

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Restaurants

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Flavour of the Month: Eight locavore chefs on what to do with their favourite farmers’ market finds

Flavour of the Month: Bounty Hunters

For a few short weeks every year, farmers’ markets are flush with obscure fruits and vegetables you’ll rarely see in grocery stores. We asked the city’s most fanatical locavore chefs for their favourite finds and dead-simple prep tips.

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Food Events

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At this year’s Green Living Show, Toronto chefs teamed up with local suppliers

Louianna olive oil, polenta and mushroom croquettes from Fabio Bondi and Ravine Vineyard’s Sand and Gravel Redcoat

Toronto’s sixth annual Green Living Show kicked off last Friday at the Ex and continued through the weekend. Ecoholic Torontonians gathered en masse for the three-day event that showcased everything from locally produced coffins, for those adamant on remaining green until the bitter end, to a Miyazaki-esque solar-powered airship. The Dish hit up this year’s GLS to check out  the event’s first ever Farmers Market and to snack on the Farm Fresh Fare dishes. The weekend featured a rotating cast of Toronto chefs, including The Gabardine’s Graham Pratt and Local Kitchen’s Fabio Bondi, who had partnered up with local producers like Kolapore Springs and 100km Foods to prepare tapas-sized plates ($2-$4).

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Features

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Greatest Hits: Chris Nuttall-Smith picks the 25 most delicious dishes of the last year

Enoteca Sociale’s octopus and fava beans

The 25 most delicious dishes tasted this year, ranging  from lowbrow comforts (potato puffballs) to high-minded masterpieces (tea-smoked duck)*

See the list »

*Availability of dishes varies according to season and changing menus

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Features

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Just Opened: we review Sushi Couture, Niwatei and Bar Salumi

A new sushi king on Bloor, carb-loading in Markham and Parkdale’s chicest snack spot

Sushi Couture star
456 Bloor St. W., 416-538-8618

Ken Zhang has been a sushi star going on a decade now, thanks to his time at Japango across from city hall, where he served some of the hardest-to-find fish in town. Now on his own, his cut fish and rolls at Couture are still excellent. His couture roll—rice and avocado wrapped in nori, topped with salmon and a scallop slice and flash-toasted with a blowtorch—is given a boost with scallion and roe. (But don’t order the o‑toro, a.k.a. bluefin tuna—it’s severely threatened, the marine equivalent of eating baby panda.) Zhang’s hot dishes, however, sometimes miss the mark. The $70 oma­kase option here is just $10 less than Sushi Kaji’s basic oma­kase and doesn’t begin to approach the master’s orbit. A soup of buttery shell clams, for instance, should be beautiful given its ingredients of sake, butter, yuzu zest and soy, but there’s far too much soy, so it’s too salty for more than a few sips. Roast duck salad brings cold, chewy slices as pallid as Lloyd Robertson’s wattle over mesclun mix that has started to brown. The tempura aji is exceptional, chopped and mixed with scallions, folded into a shiso leaf and quickly fried: the taste is creamy and full, balanced out with the sharp onions, the soapy leaf and crunchy shell. Unlicensed. Mains $19–$26.

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Openings

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Introducing: Bar Salumi, an aperitif bar by the owners of Local Kitchen

The interior of Bar Salumi. Volano meat slicer located near bottom left (Images: Jon Sufrin)

Inside Queen West’s new Bar Salumi—under hanging Berkshire prosciutto, garlands of hot peppers and a wild boar’s head—sits the Ferrari of all meat slicers: a Volano. In the hands of the right operator, the apparatus is supposed to make a perfect slice every time. Michael Sangregorio and Fabio Bondi, Bar Salumi’s owners, are hoping to become such operators. “It’s the most expensive thing in the entire bar,” says Sangregorio, who likens it to a Swiss watch. Bondi admits they’re trying to figure out how to use it to its full potential.

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Openings

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Local Kitchen to expand eastward with Bar Salumi, an “aperitif bar”

Parkdale prospectors: Michael Sangregorio and chef Fabio Bondi (Image: Renée Suen)

Fabio Bondi and Michael Sangregorio, the guys behind the Parkdale hot spot Local Kitchen and Wine Bar, are slowly taking over the neighbourhood. In a few months, they’ll open Bar Salumi, an aperitif joint, a few doors east of Local. As it stands, their restaurant’s popularity has outgrown its diminutive size; since they don’t take reservations, there are often lines out the door. Bondi says that the new place was conceived as a place to send customers while they wait for a table, since they don’t presently have a lounge.

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Restaurants

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Best New Restaurants 2010

This time last year, the future looked awfully grim. We braced for restaurant closures and recessionary menus, but 2009 was surprising. Though we lost some good places (Perigee, Truffles, Alice’s and Gamelle, in particular), and mac-and-cheese quickly wore out its welcome, it was an exciting time to dine out. Anxious restaurateurs dropped corkage fees and slashed wine markups, while chefs cooked up imaginative prix fixe menus. It suited our mood as well as our wallets: these days, Torontonians want informality. We’re still hungry for local produce and nose-to-tail dining, chefs are once again finding inspiration in Italy and Japan, and the city is finally beginning to develop a serious cocktail culture. Most encouraging of all is the number of new restaurants opening. Here, the best of the vintage.

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Openings

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Just Opened: Local Kitchen and Wine Bar

Friends in food: Michael and Fabio at the counter of Local and Wine Bar (Photo by Mary)

Friends in food: Michael Sangregorio and Fabio Bondi at the counter of Local Kitchen and Wine Bar (Photo by Mary Luz Mejia)

It takes guts to open a fledgling restaurant on a Parkdale strip during Toronto’s recent civil servant strike and this decidedly un-rosy economic era, but neither of these obstacles stopped lifelong friends Fabio Bondi and Michael Sangregorio from breathing life into a 29-seater they call Local Kitchen and Wine Bar. With Bondi manning the stoves (he trained in Umbria at the much-lauded Il Postale) and Sangregorio working the front of the house, the dynamic duo has done the near-impossible. “We finally did it!” beamed Sangregorio on the second night, as customers started drifting in.

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