August 20, 2014
Apr 19, 2013
12:39 PM

First Look: Vita Sociale, the new face of a legendary uptown restaurant

Vita Sociale's porchetta, which takes three days to prepare (Images: Caroline Aksich)

In late February we reported that uptown fine dining stalwart Centro was shuttering after a staggering 25 year run. And while Centro may be gone, executive chef Symon Abad and co-owner Armando Mano are still very much present at its reincarnation: Vita Sociale, which opened earlier this week.

The name translates to “social life” — Mano hopes that the name conjures up the epicurean aspects of a life well lived: wine, food and friends. Rather than eulogizing the end of the white linen era, Mano seems thrilled to be keeping up with his quickly evolving neighbourhood.

“On our first night open, we had a number of kids come with their parents. At Centro we’d almost never see kids,” he says, smiling.

The stark white tablecloths and curtains are gone (along with the valet service), and in their stead are exposed brick, reclaimed barn board and accordion doors which will open up onto the sidewalk patio come summer.

The house-made preserves ($9) inject some much-needed colour and warmth into the formerly neutral space. Other changes include the addition of a bar, where patrons are welcome to snack while they wait for a table (in the past, arriving without a reservation was almost unheard of), and a takeaway sandwich counter is open until 5 p.m. every day.

Not only has the décor changed, but also the menu, which is now more rustic than haute Italian. Dishes like Centro’s $55 dry-aged strip loin have been expunged. The new secondis do not exceed $27. An 11-oz hunk of porchetta — which takes three days to prepare — comes served on a wood board adorned with roasted baby fennel, heirloom carrots and accompanied by a small pot of grainy mustard ($27); the presentation is straight out of a Renaissance still life.

The primis — such as a prosciutto and melon plate accented with watermelon mousse — feature some contemporary twists on old standbys. Pizzas ($14-$23) have also been added to the menu. Rather than falling in step with the Toronto Neapolitan pizza fad, chef Abad has opted to serve Roman-style pizzas.

The wine list has also been updated (alas, there are no more $1,000-plus bottles available for those special occasions). French Burgundies and Bordeaux are no more; Italian, Californian and Ontarian wines now dominate the selection, with a number of bottles starting at $30.

Vita Sociale, 2472 Yonge St., 416-483-2211