First Look: LA’s Italian and Bar, the newly-reborn sister restaurant to Estiatorio Volos
By Karolyne Ellacott
Roasted pumpkin risotto with a brown butter emulsion, garnished with nutmeg and topped with a pine nut grissini ($18.75)
Those hoping to grab some pre-opera nosh at Little Anthony’s are in for a surprise. Gone is the 17-year old haunt; in its place sits LA’s Italian and Bar, a completely revamped version of the downtown eatery.
Owner Andreas Antoniou (who was passed the restauranteur torch by his father) tells us that the place was in great need of a change from its distinctly ’80s aesthetic. After successfully transforming his father’s other longstanding restaurant, Mediterra, into the acclaimed Estiatorio Volos last year, Antoniou decided it was time for this longstanding Italian eatery to get a similar makeover.
Working again with Marc Kyriacou, the designer responsible for Volos’ facelift, the idea was to invigorate the space and to optimize efficiency.
“We understood what worked well — and what really didn’t,” Antoniou says.
Major changes to the lay of the land included the reconfiguration of the entrance. Formerly positioned in the draught-prone corner of the building, the entrance is now located off Richmond Street. Inside, the space has been brightened up. Wooden tables — sans table linens — are paired with tangerine chairs, while throwback knickknacks and curiosities dot the room.
A granite boardroom table sits on one end of the space, and floor-to-ceiling windows run the length of the room, letting in plenty of light. Still a work in progress, Antoniou notes that window-side planters are still to come, which will help create a more intimate atmosphere.
The interior isn’t the only revamp: the menu is entirely different. Chef Aaron Foster (Mistura, Ritz-Carlton) runs the kitchen, overseeing a seasonal menu that will be updated six times a year.
A personal favourite of Antoniou’s is the duck carpaccio ($14.25). Lightly cured for two hours, the duck is topped with a tomato jam, citrus zest and shaved parmesan cheese. A raw duck yolk perches atop it all, waiting to be spread out across the entire dish.
Mains include a roasted pumpkin risotto ($18.75) with a brown butter emulsion, garnished with nutmeg and topped with a pine nut grissini.
The wine list, which focuses mostly on Italian picks, was Antoniou’s responsibility — though he laughingly admits he checked in with General Manager Matthew Roulston (Splendido) a few times, who’s also a sommelier.
“You can’t be overly unique with Italian cuisine,” Antoniou says. “It’s the value that will differentiate you. We know we must win customers one dish at a time.”
LA’s Italian and Bar, 121 Richmond St. W., 416-368-2223