First Look: Strada 241, a new Italian café and restaurant from the Rubino brothers
By Karolyne Ellacott
A taste of Italy... in Chinatown (Images: Karolyne Ellacott)
Chinatown’s main thoroughfare isn’t where one would normally seek out Italian cuisine, but Strada 241 is here to change that. Brothers Michael and Guy Rubino (Ame, Rain) are serving up simple and traditional fare from the south of the boot.
“As we’re getting older, we’re becoming more nostalgic,” Michael says. “At the end of the day, this is the food I eat at home.”
Choosing to serve the food of their homeland was a choice partially dictated by the space itself.
“We wanted to preserve the integrity of the building,” Michael says, “and we really got a European feel from the space.”
A yawning ceiling oversees exposed brick walls and original wood floors; accent walls are outfitted with archival prints of Toronto street scenes. Up front, a communal table is fitted with steel stools as daytime denizens chat over lattes. A Moretti Forni pizza oven dominates the centre of the place, while tables in the back are reserved for those dining at a more languid pace.
Refusing to abide by the rules, the restaurant opens at 7 a.m., serving lattes and an assortment of house-made pastries. Come lunch, the menu opens up to include a selection of pizzas, pastas and sharing plates.
Imported from Italy, the aforementioned pizza oven uses volcanic stone, allowing for more consistency, we’re told, than a wood-burning oven. And not only is it more eco-friendly, but these ovens are apparently all the rage in Italy.
Not quite Neapolitan or Roman, the style of ’za hails from the brothers’ hometown of Salerno. The Nina ($17), made from tomatoes and fior di latte, is dressed in anchovies, asparagus and celery leaves, and is finished off with pesto.
Lighter fare includes the salmon salad ($12), starring cured organic B.C. salmon tossed with rainbow carrot agrodolce and chickpeas; it’s then drizzled in a green olive vinaigrette.
Robert Gonsalves, who appeared with Guy on Iron Chef America, is entirely responsible for the sweet component of the menu. The Limone ($7) — his wife’s favourite — layers lemon custard, almond fennel crumble, mascarpone sorbet and candied fennel into a Mason jar.
Strada 241, 241 Spadina Ave., 647-351-1200