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The new downtown Pizzeria Libretto is almost a reality

Zagat Toronto spoke to Libretto co-owners Max Rimaldi and Rocco Agostino, who confirmed that the new downtown location—housed in a PATH-accessible office tower at 155 University Avenue—will open sometime in September. The new spot will be similar to the Ossington and Danforth locations, with a few decorative concessions to the area’s expense-account-wielding clientele. “Instead of vinyl seating it’ll be leather seating,” Agostino said. “Instead of barn board it will be refined wood.” The menu, however, will stay the same.

The Informer

Real Estate

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Ex-mayor John Sewell on why mediocre development projects get city hall’s approval:

“Councillors don’t debate the rezonings happening in someone else’s ward. They simply defer to whatever the local councillor wants. There’s an unspoken rule that you don’t stick your nose into someone else’s ward and they won’t stick their noses into yours.” In other words, Sewell (writing for Post City) believes one reason Toronto has so many tiny condos with crappy layouts is that local politicians have some kind of code of honour that prevents them from meddling in often-lucrative development deals beyond the borders of their own districts. City councillors themselves, meanwhile, remain content to blame the OMB.

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Food Shops

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Jellyfish gelato is available now on Queen West

Sweet Olenka, the Etobicoke chocolate shop turned Queen West pop-up, has broken away from the pack in Toronto’s race to to find the weirdest ice-cream flavour possible. According to the Star, owner Olenka Bazowski recently debuted a seafood-flavoured cone. Bazowski makes a jelly out of pulverized jellyfish and maple syrup, mixes it with miso-flavoured ice cream and then flash-freezes the blend, turning the jellyfish component into “sweet and crisp” beads. She ranks this particular experiment as “level 3 weird.” Scary to think what a five would be.

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Politics

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Rob Ford hired a drug enforcer to coach high school football

Another day, another shady Rob Ford buddy. Meet Peter Payman (a.k.a. Payman Aboodowleh, Payman Aboodowieh and/or Pejman Aboodowleh), who hid his criminal past from the Toronto Catholic District School Board so he could join the mayor on the sidelines as a fellow coach for the Don Bosco Eagles—back before Ford was ousted from the job, that is. [Globe and Mail]

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Real Estate

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Real estate website Zoocasa is offering rebates on broker commissions in Toronto

Rogers Communications rolled out a revamped version of Zoocasa, its online resource for home buyers, this week, and along with a new, cleaner look that’s heavy on infographics, the site’s promising to repay consumers a portion of their broker commission. Users who connect to agents through Zoocasa’s free referral service and then close the sale or purchase of a home will get about 15 per cent of the commission back in cash and gift cards for retailers like Best Buy, Home Depot, Sears or Canadian Tire. (On a $500,000 home, the consumer would get $1,683 in cash and $240 in gift cards.) Zoocasa has also obtained a brokerage licence as a back-door way to access up-to-date listings data from the Toronto Real Estate Board, meaning it, like Realtor.ca, now displays every property available through MLS. (Previously, Zoocasa only published listings from specific agents with whom it had deals.) Still, unlike similar house hunting sites in the U.S., Zoocasa still can’t display past sales information—unless Canada’s Competition Bureau can win an upcoming appeal and force TREB to loosen its vice grip on the information.

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Restaurants

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A new seafood spot named Geraldine is moving into Cowbell’s previous Parkdale digs

Former Cowbell chef Peter Ramsay, who also did a stint as the chef de cuisine at Sidecar in Little Italy, is opening a new seafood restaurant in early July at 1564 Queen West, where Mark Cutrara’s bistro Cowbell resided for six years before closing in February. Geraldine is named after Ramsay’s grandmother and will serve seafood instead of meat. The restaurant will also do afternoon tea on the weekend—a dainty departure from Toronto’s current obsession with gut-busting brunches. [NOW]

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Real Estate

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Humber Valley Village residents enlist an architect—and Rob Ford— to fight a condo development

A proposal from First Capital Realty to build a 65,000-square-foot mixed-used development on the site of the Humbertown strip mall in Etobicoke has local residents, including mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug, concerned for the neighbourhood’s suburban character. The proposal comprises five buildings containing 576 apartment units, 28 townhouses, 21,000 square metres of commercial space and underground parking. Councillor Gloria Lindsay-Luby and neighbours say it will bring traffic congestion and an unwelcome spike in population density, and the mayor himself showed up at a Etobicoke Community Council meeting last night to put magnets on the cars in the parking lot slam the scheme and remind developers that “this isn’t downtown, this Etobicoke.” Meanwhile, the residents’ association has hired an architect to draw up a proposal for the kind of development they might support, which has 202 residential units, a town square and a maximum building height of six stories rather than 12. First Capital, however, says it’s not planning to adjust its plans before city council considers them at a June 11 meeting. [Globe and Mail]

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Real Estate

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Peter Munk is dropping dollars in the Toronto condo market

Jet-setting philanthropist Peter Munk, the 85-year-old founder of Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp., is taking a rogue approach to real estate: he’s dumping big money into condo developments at a time when Toronto’s already overflowing with high rises and other developers are backing away. Munk is using his personal wealth to help finance CD Capital, headed by Todd Cowan and Jordan Dermer, who were previously execs at another real estate company backed by Munk. The developers’ projects include, among others, the 300-unit Sixty Colborne project near St. Lawrence Market and 155 Redpath at Yonge and Eglinton, an area Dermer argues is ripe for development. Munk, meanwhile, says the city’s starry future is reason enough to invest. Hard to argue with a billion-dollar man. [Globe and Mail]

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Real Estate

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Potential buyers have to pay $50 just to view a high-end home in The Beach

So many people are now hitting swanky open houses for fun that agents and owners are looking for ways to separate penniless oglers from serious, deep-pocketed buyers. Case in point: anyone wanting to view Edgemont, a sprawling beachfront property currently listed for $5 million, will have to make a $50 donation to the SickKids Foundation before being allowed inside the seven-bedroom heritage home. The agent says potential buyers, tired of keeping their own listed homes showroom ready, are sympathetic to the owner’s efforts to minimise disruption and happily pony up the cash. As for the gawkers, they’ll have to make do with the exterior photos from the online listing—or stroll along the beach with binoculars. [Toronto Star]

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Random Stuff

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A new boutique hotel and restaurant is coming to Queen Street West

Before Toronto became all about big-name luxury hotel chains, the The Drake and The Gladstone were emblems of the city’s love for almost painfully hip boutique lodgings. Now, a new 18-room hotel is set to open in the heart of the Queen West shopping strip, potentially signalling that boutique is back. The Beverley will occupy the narrow, Foot Locker-adjacent space at 335 Queen Street West and will include a restaurant helmed by chef Eric Wood (formerly of Hawthorne Food and Drink). Further details remain scarce, though a disapproving letter from councillor Adam Vaughan from September suggests the restaurant might have a lounge, a rooftop patio and room for 160 diners. The opening date is rumoured to be later this month.

The Dish

Restaurants

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The Slow Room owners are opening a new Italian restaurant and a food truck

Roberto and Sandra Mandarino, who own The Slow Room espresso shop in Little Italy, are opening a rustic Italian restaurant called Sagra, along with matching food truck Bestia, sort of the restaurant equivalent of a Mini Me. The roving food truck, which is the only one in Toronto with a wood-burning oven, hits streets next week, and the restaurant is scheduled to open next month in the Junction—possibly the city’s only neighbourhood left without a classic Italian pizza and pasta place.

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Restaurants

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Fare Game is opening in the Jam Café’s former Cabbagetown digs

Bistro Jam Café closed ten days ago and already a new restaurant is opening in its place. Later this week Gord MacLeod, a former sous chef at La Vecchia and Coquine, and partner Fakhurddin Shaikh are set to open Fare Game, a neighbourhood restaurant focused on game like venison, ostrich and rabbit. The pair is taking a bit of a risk with the location: the Carlton Street room has changed from the Cosmo Café to the Jam Café to Fare Game in just a few short years.

The Dish

Restaurants

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Hanif Harji is opening a clubby new resto-lounge in the ill-fated space at 55 Colborne Street

Restaurants have never had much luck at 55 Colborne. In the last two years, both The Bowery and Osteria 55 have tried and failed to woo the Financial District’s after-work crowds to the cavernous space. Hanif Harji, who collaborated with Charles Khabouth on King West hot spots Patria and Weslodge, is hoping to change that with Switch, a slick, new two-storey lounge set to open in early May. The main floor, modeled on Prohibition-era Brooklyn bars, serves cocktails and bar snacks until 10 p.m., when the DJ cranks up the tunes and turns the place into a full-blown club. The lower level, meanwhile, is tricked out like a kitschy rec room with video games, shag carpets and big screen TVs. If the success of similar places, like ping-pong club Spin and bowling-alley-slash-bar The Ballroom, are any indication, Switch may just overcome the 55 Colborne curse. [Notable]

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Real Estate

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Competition Bureau loses its bid to force TREB to release home sales histories

Canadian homebuyers have long been jealous of the detailed home sales information available on American real estate websites like Zillowand, unfortunately, they’ll have to remain jealous for now, because the federal Competition Bureau has lost its high-profile bid to force the Toronto Real Estate Board to loosen its grip on the info. The bureau had accused the 35,000-agent board of unfairly keeping sales data from low-cost brokerages (and through them, homebuyers and sellers) for fear of losing out on commissions. (For its part, TREB says it has concerns about homeowner privacy and safety.) After a five-year investigation, two months of hearings and an eight-month wait, a federal tribunal dismissed the case at least in part because it was filed under the wrong section of the Competition Act. The bureau is considering whether it will appeal or re-file. [Globe and Mail]

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Deathwatch

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Tati Bistro is closing next month

After nearly six years on Harbord Street, Tati Bistro is winding down. Co-owners Wayne Parent and Whitney Brown made the announcement earlier this week on Facebook, and Parent told The Grid that one factor behind the decision was the increased competition in Toronto’s restaurant scene. Tati’s last day of operation will be Mother’s Day, on May 12, when they’ll offer both brunch and dinner; chef Laurent Brion, meanwhile, will continue to run Chabichou, the restaurant’s nearby sister cheese shop, with Brown. Tati’s space has already been sold to new owners, who plan to launch their own restaurant there—which means the airy back patio, passed down from Kensington Kitchen, will  live on.

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