Michael Rubino

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Strada 241 says so long to Chinatown

(Image: Signe Langford)

(Image: Signe Langford)

There’s been much talk lately—some optimistic, some less so—about the influx of trendy, not-particularly-Chinese restaurants opening shop along the Chinatown strip. One of the very first was Strada 241, the weirdly enormous Italian restaurant at 241 Spadina Avenue from brothers (and former TV stars) Michael and Guy Rubino. Despite generally positive reviews, it appears neighbourhood demand for rustic Italian food ultimately wasn’t strong enough to sustain the business past the two-year mark. Yesterday, the Rubinos confirmed over social media that the restaurant has closed. A message on the restaurant’s Facebook page thanks staff members for their enthusiasm and signs off with, “It’s been a slice.” It will be interesting to see what happens next in the 3,800-square-foot space, which always seemed a bit too imposing to house a cozy trattoria. Stay tuned for updates.

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The scraps, stunts and multi-million-dollar investments behind Charles Khabouth’s empire of cool

Life is one never-ending, exclusive party in Charles Khabouth’s 17 faddish restaurants and nightclubs.

The Impresario: Charles Khabouth

It costs $750 (i.e., a three-bottle minimum) to sit down in Khabouth’s new Adelaide West nightclub, Uniun

For those of you who have never been to Uniun, the latest addition to Toronto’s dance club scene, here are some of the things you will notice should you go. Though Uniun’s address is nominally 473 Adelaide West, if you actually stand at the corner of Adelaide and Portland you will not see the entrance: to find it, you have to cut through a small parking lot and then walk up a dark alley, at which point you will find a pair of bouncers manning a black velvet cordon.

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Weekly Lunch Pick: a hearty plate of spaghetti all’Amatriciana at Strada 241

Toronto-Weekly-Lunch-Pick-Strada-241-Rubino

(Images: Renée Suen)

Strada 241, the new restaurant and espresso bar from Made to Order stars Michael and Guy Rubino, is a rustic Italian retreat among the hole-in-the-wall pho shops and greasy Chinese noodle and dumpling houses that line the southern end of Chinatown. Diners snack on the packaged sandwiches, baked goods and pizzas by the slice on communal tables in restaurant’s lofty front area, while the buzzy back dining room, with its bright marble-topped kitchen bar, serves Southern Italian classics.

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Review: Strada 241, the Rubino brothers’ new take on rustic Italian

(Image: Emma McIntyre)

SEE ALL FIRST REVIEWS
Strada 241 starstar
241 Spadina Ave., 647-351-1200

strada241.com

The Rubino brothers are an unpredictable pair. As stars of Made to Order, their own reality series, Guy and Michael catered to the show’s fans, experimenting with ever-more complex, outlandish and expensive Asian fusion dishes at Ame and Rain. And now the always-surprising brothers are serving the least surprising cuisine in the city—rustic Italian.

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Introducing: Strada 241, a new rustic Italian restaurant and café from the Rubino brothers

Introducing: Strada 241

(Image: Signe Langford)

For Michael and Guy Rubino, Strada 241, their brand-new restaurant and espresso bar on Spadina, is a way for them to go back to their Italian roots (“strada” is Italian for “street” or “path”). The Rubinos have spent the past decade immersed in high-end East-meets-West fusion cuisine at Ame and Rain, which Guy refers to as “high-wire-act cooking in designer restaurants.” But it seems midlife has drawn the brothers to the traditional cuisine of their hometown, Salerno. Guy, the chef, tells us, “We’ve gotten older, we’ve become a bit nostalgic. Michael got married and had a couple of kids, and I formed a band—Curtain Call. We’re cutting a record now and we just did a tour. So we are ready for more balance in our lives.”

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Chris Nuttall-Smith takes on La Société, Charles Khabouth’s sexy, buzzy French bistro


La Société

La Société serves up social cachet wrapped in sex appeal, and some decent French food, too (Image: Eugen Sakhnenko)

Four million dollars buys a lot of restaurant, even on Bloor Street, at the heart of the city’s richest retail mile. Charles Khabouth, the nightclub impresario behind La Société, the new, two-storey, 380-seat, more or less slavish recreation of a belle époque Paris bistro, brought in 29 tile workers, many of them from Montreal, to complete the spectacularly elaborate black, white and gold mosaic floors in the restaurant’s main bar and dining room. He and Alessandro Munge, of the Munge Leung design firm, commissioned a stained-glass ceiling for the bistro’s main space (which they’ve backlit, inexcusably, with sallow fluorescent lights), purchased their zinc bar top from France, outfitted the banquettes in brass and burgundy leather, and panelled the room in enough mahogany to deforest the best-endowed of banana republics. The rent, meantime, likely adds $2 million annually to Khabouth’s overhead. He’ll need to sell a lot of steak frites to cover that, but the man isn’t afraid to go big.

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Restaurants

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Ame: the Rubinos’ latest bacchanal

(Photo by Jessica Darmanin)

(Photo by Jessica Darmanin)

Ten years ago, the fraternal foodies (that’s Michael, the business brain, and Guy, the chef) introduced pan-Asian glamour to the city’s restaurant scene with the clubby Rain. Now they’ve shaken things up again, partnering with party czar Charles Khabouth to give their eatery a recession-defying overhaul, a revamped menu and a new name—Ame. For Toronto Life‘s Best of Fall cover story, we sat down to interview the pair about how two Italian boys came to open a Japanese restaurant on Mercer Street.

• Read the Q&A with the Rubino brothers>>
• See the whole Best of Fall package>>

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Openings

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Here comes the Rain again: a peek inside Guy and Michael Rubino’s Ame

Guy Rubino mans the grill at Ame (All photos by Davida Aronovitch)

Guy Rubino mans the grill at Ame, the restaurant he and his brother, Michael, have opened in collaboration with Charles Khabouth (All photos by Davida Aronovitch)

After over six months of renovations and about two months of delay, Guy and Michael Rubino’s Rain has been reborn as Ame (Japanese for, what else, “rain”). The brothers are known for frequent reinvention (Zoom, Luce and the reality series Made to Order), and for this latest transformation, they have teamed up with the club mogul Charles Khabouth. Ame presents the chic Japanese aspects of Rain’s Asian fusion and swaps the former restaurant’s special-occasion appeal for a casual vibe.

The interior of Ame is by Khabouth’s go-to designers, Munge Leung (Ultra, Guvernment); the one-room open concept has been transformed into a seductive labyrinth of spaces. An inviting lounge of chunky low-rise furniture is flanked by a sexy backlit bar. The sashimi counter wraps around the traditional coal-burning robata grill—Guy’s culinary cornerstone, on which the Iron Chef sears Australian wagyu flatiron and strip loin steak, cut to order. The adjacent dining area is splintered into tidy nooks; a private room beckons recluses and TIFF types. The full menu is available in all spaces, to entice barflies and foodies alike.

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Restaurants

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Rain is now “unrecognizable” as it becomes the all-new Japanese-inspired Ame

Ame cometh: Guy Rubino will be cooking up authentic Japanese fare at Rain's resto replacement

Ame cometh: Guy Rubino will be cooking up authentic Japanese fare at Rain's replacement

When Rain closed its doors in early January, it was supposed to be for modest renovations. The co-owning Rubino brothers (Guy and Michael, of Zoom and Luce fame) were planning a sushi and sashimi bar to add some new flavour to the restaurant as it approached its 10th anniversary. But club king and visionary Charles Khabouth arrived on the scene with another idea. “It’s all Charles’s fault,” explains executive chef Guy Rubino. “He said, ‘It’s not enough. Come to my office.’ So I did.” Now, after massive changes to the concept, space, name and menu, the souped-up supper club Ame is slated to open at the end of June, featuring an Obama shout-out, a more relaxed ambience and a brand new menu. Says Guy, “It will be completely unrecognizable.”

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Let it Rain: The made-over hot spot is set to reopen next month

Rain, Rain: Come again some other day (Photo by Henry Faber)

Rain, Rain: Come again some other day (Photo by Henry Faber)

In June, the redesigned Rain will be unveiled, with a new name (Ame, Japanese for “rain”), a tip-to-tail renovation and some fresh entertainment value. Club king Charles Khabouth (Tattoo Rock Parlour, Spice Route), who has been shaping the party scene since the first bodysuit trend, has teamed up with co-owners and Made to Order stars Guy and Michael Rubino to give the Mercer Street digs a new do.

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