First Look: Stazione Centrale, St. Clair West’s new meeting place for Italian comfort food
By Meri Perra
Stazione Centrale's beet salad (Images: Meri Perra)
Armando Pronesti says that he’s the conductor, not the owner, of Stazione Centrale, the new Southern Italian comfort food restaurant that’s opened at St. Clair and Atlas. He’s joking, of course. His humour fits well with the train station theme of the restaurant, which includes TTC-inspired business cards, an old street light post and vintage, fully-restored train lights on display behind the bar.
Pronesti’s touches have given Stazione a feel that’s comfortable, with touches of glamour. It’s as though you’re on a luxurious train ride, but, as the saying goes, you’re there for the journey, not the destination.
“I’ve been on St. Clair for over 20 years,” Pronesti says. “I’ve always felt the strip needed something a little more casual and down to earth.”
As one of the original owners of Ferro Bar & Café, Pronesti took a break from the restaurant business a few years back to open a gelato shop, The Village Scoop. After a while, he wanted back, so in December he took over the space, which previously housed Atlas One Restaurant & Lounge, and spent a few months renovating. It opened as Stazione Centrale about six weeks ago.
“Other restaurants have the upscale look,” Pronesti says, “but I’ve got the shared atmosphere look, the New York feeling I wanted to give.”
Stazione’s menu includes an “All Aboard” section — a sharing menu, which changes weekly. When we there, items included a spicy tomato plate ($6) and grilled jumbo prawns with fennel, arugula and Sambuca cream ($8).
Permanent menu items are divided into similar locomotive-themed categories, such as “First Stop” for apps, “Second Stop” for pastas and “Side Cars” for extras such as house frites.
The beet salad (called The Fallen Flag, $10, pictured above) is a sweet tower of marinated red and yellow beets stacked between layers of chèvre, with a touch of balsamic vinegar and a beet reduction. Its’ dazzled with rice wine vinaigrette, shallots and pickled kohlrabi.
“It’s a fallen flag because it tumbles over when you start to eat it,” chef Elias Maheux says. (The other key figure behind Stazione is sous-chef Colin Yeates.)
Also noteworthy are the beer-braised beef short ribs with a side of frites ($18, pictured below), sprinkled with house-made yucca chips and topped with pearl onion jus.
Suppliers include City Fish, Verdi Produce & Grocery and The Butcher Shoppe.
Pronesti says all the items are inspired from his mother’s home cooking. He must have eaten well growing up.
Stazione Centrale, 820 St Clair Ave. West, 416-656-4817