Little Italy

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Fat City Blues, Little Italy’s New Orleans–inspired watering hole

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

Name: Fat City Blues
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Contact Info: 890 College St., 647-345-8282, fatcityblues.com, @fatcityblues
Previously: The Huntsman Tavern
Owners: Cameron Hutton and Steve McKeon (Small Town Food Co.), Simon Ho (The Drake)
Chef: Charles Duncan (Splendido)

The Food: Updated Cajun classics: peanuts boiled in their shells; battered alligator po’ boys on soft baguette with a house-made remoulade; creole-spiked hush puppies—spicy bites dredged in cornmeal, fried until golden and served with a honey-cider cream; and crab legs (bib included). And it wouldn’t be a taste of the bayou without bivalves. At Fat City, the oysters are prepared three ways: raw, baked and fried. A by-the-weight crawfish boil is in the works and will likely be on the menu for when summer arrives.

The Drinks: Southern-inspired potent potables, including the Hurricane (the passion fruit– and rum-spiked cocktail synonymous with party beads) and the Sazerac, along with a list of Ho’s signature cocktails that are twists on the N’awlins classics: Land of Dixie and Fiyo on the Bayou are both boozy numbers. An absinthe menu is in the works with three varieties currently on offer, including one from Dillon’s.

The Place: Inspired by the jazz bars of Frenchman Street, a piano sits in the middle of the restaurant for diners who aren’t afraid to tickle the ivories and belt out a tune. Every Thursday through Sunday (but soon, nightly), guests can sip their Sazeracs in front of live blues and jazz performances. Restored wood, haphazardly nailed onto one wall, paired with polished blue banquettes and tables covered in newspaper clippings give the space a clean, but slightly rough-around-the-edges look.

The Goods

Homes

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Inner Sanctum: a converted church condo in Little Italy worth a seven-year wait

Inner Sanctum: The former Baptist sanctuary in Little Italy has been converted into mammoth, light-soaked condos

The red brick Romanesque Revival at College and Palmerston has lived a few lives in its 126 years. In the early days of the city it was a Baptist church. By the mid-20th century it was serving Portuguese Seventh Day Adventists. Finally, in 2006, the dwindling congregation sold up to a group of investors, led by the developer Matthew Kosoy, so it could be turned into luxury condos. One of the investors, Joel Prussky, a capital markets trader at BMO, came in with his eye on a smaller unit—the former rectory, a mere 5,500 square feet spread over three storeys. He liked the idea of preserving a piece of the city’s history and thought it would be a fun investment. But it would be seven years before the space was habitable—the building’s heritage designation slowed development. In the interim, Prussky met and fell in love with his wife, Janice Nathanson, had a daughter, Kate, bought a house in Casa Loma and raised an Aussiedoodle named Coco. As construction rolled along, the family got excited about the idea of moving downtown and having Kensington’s shops and College’s restaurant row at their doorstep. To prepare for move-in, Prussky and Nathanson worked closely with two interior designers, Mazen El-Abdullah and Lisa Lev, to finish the space to their tastes. They added a gracious central staircase, a roof deck with 360-degree views of the city and an elevator to bypass the long hike (they have wet bars on every floor for the same reason). In 2013, they finally moved in, and they’ve been loving it ever since.

The Dish

Restaurants

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Porchetta & Co. and Pizzeria Libretto to open A3 Napoli on College

A3Napoli

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

We know that Pizzeria Libretto and Porchetta & Co. are besties now, what with their side-by-side venture set to open on King West this summer, but the relationship is apparently more serious than previously known. It turns out that the two businesses are teaming up on another restaurant that’s set to open this spring at College and Clinton, in the Mad Italian’s old spot. The new place, which will be called A3 Napoli Pizzeria e Friggitoria, will serve Neapolitan street food, including pizza and fried foods (the owners won’t specify what kinds exactly, but we’re guessing arancini, fried calamari and the like). Libretto’s Rocco Agostino will act as executive chef, and Porchetta’s Nick auf der Mauer will help develop the menu. Currently, the plan is for the restaurant to be open seven days a week, from lunchtime until midnight. It will offer takeout and sit-down food service, plus Italian and local brews. And the cryptic name? That’s a reference to a motorway that leads into the heart of Naples, Italy.

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Bar Raval, Grant van Gameren’s much-hyped Spanish pinchos bar

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

Name: Bar Raval
Contact Info: 505 College St.thisisbarraval.com, @bar_raval
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Owners: Grant Van Gameren (Bar Isabel), Mike Webster (Momofuku and Bar Isabel) and Robin Goodfellow (Ursa)
Chefs: Van Gameren and former Bar Isabel sous chefs Ryan Baddeley and Keenan Mcvey

The Food: Guests at van Gameren’s new pinchos place dine shoulder-to-shoulder, eating from a tapas menu that doesn’t bother much with fanciness: small bites like steamed leeks on romesco, morcilla sausage with quail eggs and salty boquerón—quintessential casual northern-Spanish snacks—are eaten with toothpicks. The canned seafood, some of it imported, some house-made, includes preserved mussels, smoked mackerel with rosemary, as well as berberechos—small, saltwater clams from Conservas de Campados that are steamed in the can they come in, then served with a side of chips and a house aperitivo sauce. Embuditos (cured meat), and plancha-grilled seafood, meats and cheeses round out the snacks. And at Bar Raval, anytime is tapas time: it’s open every day, from 8 a.m.–2 a.m.

The Drinks: Bar Raval’s low-octane tipples, like the Jack Knife made with Tio Pepe, promote day drinking (as well as afternoon functioning). A long list of fortified wine, vermouth and sherry is available all day, too. The bar itself is built for speed and functionality: it boasts a sunken, angled gutter that keeps the team’s mise en place out of the way.

The Place: A tin roof is all that’s left of what used to be Teatro. Intricate, Antoni Gaudí-inspired woodwork (completed by design team Partisan for a price tag of $200,000) melts mahogany into swooping curves, with few right angles in sight, making the bar feel like a warm and super-stylish grotto.

The Dish

Stat

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Cafe Diplomatico enforces $15-per-hour minimum spend during World Cup matches

$15

—The minimum amount customers have to spend—per hour—for the privilege of watching Italy’s World Cup matches at Cafe Diplomatico in Little Italy. According to the CBC, the College Street institution debuted the minimum-spend policy during last Saturday’s Italy-England game. As one customer noted, the rule amounts to an enforced-drinking policy, since few people are likely to consume enough food to cover the charge, especially at a place where a large pizza only costs $14.50.

The Informer

Real Estate

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Sale of the Week: the $1.7 million Victorian that shows the changing nature of Little Italy’s rental stock

Address: 432 Markham Street
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Agent: Elden Freeman, Freeman Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage

The Property: This massive, three-storey Victorian semi is split into three separate, designer-quality suites, one on each of the lower and main levels, with a larger one taking up the second and third storeys. Each unit has a separate kitchen with gas appliances. The top level houses a master bedroom and sitting room with a walkout to a 460-square-foot deck. In all, the seller claims the property can generate $94,800 gross annually, but the real draw is the possibility of occupying the huge upper suite while renting out the other two.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Sale of the Week: the $970,000 townhouse that shows location and space can still be had—for a price

Sale of the Week: 10 Plymouth Avenue, Unit 1

Address: 10 Plymouth Avenue, Unit 1
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Agent: Matt Manuel and Paul Johnston, Right At Home Realty Inc., Brokerage

The Property: The end unit on a row of semi-detached townhomes, located on a quiet laneway within walking distance of Trinity Bellwoods Park. The fact that it shares only one wall with neighbours means it has ideal south, east and west exposures and an unobstructed view of the downtown skyline. In terms of square footage, it approaches the size of an actual home, but it’s taxed like a condo. A central staircase creates a neat dividing line through the interior space, and a finished lower level gives the owner a little extra room to sprawl. Out back, the private yard is a low-maintenance concrete urban garden.

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The Goods

Shopping

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Queen Video is closing its College location after a decade (and selling off 30,000 rentals)

(Image: Yelp)

(Image: Yelp)

In a heartwarming note on its storefront window, Queen Video announced the closure of its College location earlier this week. “Ten years hasn’t been long enough, but our lease has ended…thank you Little Italy, we will miss all you movie lovers.” While this is unfortunate news for neighbourhood film buffs (at least, those who still frequent video stores instead of just downloading everything), the store’s Queen Street and Bloor Street locations will continue to peddle rentals for “many years to come.”

In the meantime, if you fancy adding to your physical DVD collection, the College outpost is selling off all 30,000 of its titles for $6.20 each. There are some solid deals on hard-to-find videos, including silent films, niche documentaries, music movies and tonnes of foreign films. Of course, there are also popular Oscar picks, but if you’re going to delve into the extensive archives, it’s worth emerging with an obscure find or two. The sale is on until April 30.

The Dish

Closings

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The Mad Italian closes its doors after sane moment of epiphany

Mad-Italian-for-lease

The Little Italy location of The Mad Italian (Image: Jon Sufrin)

The Mad Italian Gelato Bar seemed to be on an upward trajectory over the past few years, having expanded twice from its original Leaside location (first to Little Italy in 2011, then to the Danforth in 2012). But owner Eli Turkienicz has confirmed with us that the business is finished, and that all three locations are now closed.

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The Informer

Features

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RAT APOCALYPSE! Toronto’s new home invaders are growing in shocking numbers

Rats feasting in our green bins and backyard tomato patches. Rats scurrying through our living rooms. Rats popping out of our toilets. An investigation into how Toronto became a vermin breeding ground

RAT APOCALYPSE! Toronto's new home invaders are growing in shocking numbers

I’ve lived in Toronto for 25 years, off and on, and I have seen maybe half a dozen rats, both living and dead. Like most people, I don’t seek them out. This chilly Monday morning in early fall, however, I’m at a midtown food-production facility that I must leave nameless—the owners would prefer to stay on good terms with their neighbours. I’m in the company of Daniel Mackie and Ron Forbes, two pest control professionals, both attired in the crisp, pinstriped uniforms of GreenLeaf Pest Control. GreenLeaf bills itself as the “number one eco-conscious pest control service in Toronto.” They’re here to inspect the 30-odd traps they’ve laid for the rats that have plagued this establishment for months. They do this once a week, unlocking the hard black plastic boxes and extracting the two Jawz snap traps that they’ve baited with soy butter or pepperoni or a daub of Provoke gel, a so-called rat attractant. If they find a rat, its lifeless body is dropped into a black garbage bag, double-bagged and then taken back to their main office and thrown in a dumpster.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Condo of the Week: $1.1 million for a Little Italy penthouse with a dramatic catwalk and a roomy terrace

Condo of the Week: 301 Markham Street

Address: 301 Markham Street, Penthouse 805
Neighbourhood: Palmerston-Little Italy
Agent: Steven Fudge, Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage
Price: $1,099,999

The Place: A two-bedroom, two-floor penthouse in a building at College and Bathurst containing 68 lofts.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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House of the Week: $1.65 million for a Little Italy semi with a backyard coach house

House of the Week: $1.65 million for a Little Italy semi-detached with a backyard coach house

Address: 290 Palmerston Avenue
Neighbourhood: Trinity-Bellwoods
Agent: Stefani Konidis and Catherine Black, Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage
Price: $1,649,000

The Place: A Little Italy house with Victorian red brick charm and a fully-finished coach house out back.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Darwin, Little Italy’s new modern French bistro

Introducing: Darwin

Name: Darwin Bistro Bar
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Contact info: 651 College St., 647-348-9347, Facebook Page, @DarwinBistroBar
Owners: Husband-and wife Junaid and Neeman Rahman, and Junaid’s brother Ryan Rahman
Chef: Jean Regis Raynaud, previously of Le Paradis and Paris’s Hotel Costes

The food: Modern French cuisine with international flavours, with starters like moules frites in a tom yum soup ($12) and curried shrimp cocktail with creamed avocado ($10).

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Ryoji Ramen and Izakaya, the Little Italy outpost of the Okinawa-based chain

Introducing: Ryoji Ramen and Izakaya

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

Little Italy’s Ryoji combines two of the city’s hottest food trends: ramen and izakayas. The popular Japanese chain, founded in 1988 by chef and owner Ryoji Kinjo, has nearly a dozen locations in Okinawa, although this is the first outside Japan.

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The Dish

Food Events

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Weekly Eater: Toronto food events for December 17 to 23

Porchetta and Co. celebrates two years in business on Thursday with $1 sandwiches (Image: Andrew Brudz)

Monday, December 17

  • 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—Annual Sagittarian Ball: Get festive in your best cocktail attire while enjoying complimentary hors d’oeuvres from Stasis Preserves, mead tasting from Rosewood Estates and cheap cocktails made by pros from the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association. The Drake, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042. Find out more »
  • Burger Mondays: Enjoy $5 burgers and $5 pints on Mondays, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Gladstone Melody Bar. Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St. W., 416-531-4635. Find out more »
  • Lettuce Wrap Night at Chantecler: Chantecler’s popular lettuce wrap night is now taking place twice a week. Come out on Sunday and Monday nights for lettuce wraps with meats, assorted pickles and condiments for $21 per person until 1 a.m.—or until the food runs out. Chantecler, 1320 Queen St. W., 416-628-3586. Find out more »
  • Make, Don’t Buy—Chocolates for Beginners: As part of the Depanneur’s Make, Don’t Buy series of DIY gift workshops, join Emily Zimmerman and learn how to make old-fashioned creamy ganache truffles, chocolate bark with toppings of your choice and crunchy chili-cornflake bars, all using organic, Fairtrade and locally processed Chocosol chocolate. The Depanneur, 1033 College St., 416-828-1990. Find out more »

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