4 of T.O.'s favourite Italian restaurants on spring menus, celebrity chefs and the dish that made them famous
Image: Michael Kohn
Whether you love lasagna, go weak at the knees for gnocchi or salivate over a slice of 'za, there's a very good reason why Italian is one of our favourite foods of all time. With hearty, filling dishes, made with fresh ingredients and love, there's something for everyone to enjoy.
Luckily for Torontonians, you don't have to go far for an amazing Italian dinner. We asked a handful of Toronto's Italian restaurant owners which of their dishes is their favourite, why they love cooking in their neighbourhood and — most importantly — Tiramisu or Panna Cotta?
Here's what they had to say:
Alfredo Rodriguez, Owner
17 Yorkville Avenue, 416-921-1472
A true destination for modern Italian food
What dish is your restaurant famous for? Carpaccio.
Have you had any interesting or celeb customers? Yes we’ve had many. I believe it’s because we respect their privacy.
What has been your proudest moment in business? Every time a customer leaves very satisfied and happy.
What’s the secret to your success? Consistency, hard work, and truly caring about the customers’ experience.
Who is your favourite chef in the world? Anthony Bourdain.
How will you be changing up the menu this spring? Incorporating seasonal vegetables.
What makes Toronto such a foodie destination? Countless, talented and creative chefs.
What advice would you give someone looking to open a restaurant? Be ready to work long hours and have enough in the bank to support your family for at least a year.
Alida Solomon, Owner
364 Adelaide Street West, 416-597-8839
Celebrating 15 years of fine, fresh Tuscan cuisine
What dish is your restaurant famous for? Costole di Manzo (braised shortribs in Italian beer, orange, honey and rosemary).
Other than your own, which Midtown restaurant do you love to eat at? Archive wine bar is my home away from home.
What has been your proudest moment in business? Tutti Matti has had many accolades over the years but the best was in 2009 leccio di oro from the Consorzio Di Brunello di Montalcino. Also Chef Alida Solomon has been named chef of the year for 2018 OHI.
What’s the secret to your success? Loving what you do and knowing it is a lifestyle as well as a job.
Who is your favourite chef in the world? I have so many mentors from Italy that I admire but I would have to say that the late Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.
How will you be changing up the menu this spring? As we head into Spring a lot will change on the menu. I change the menu eight times a year. I can’t wait for spring greens, ramps, asparagus and anything that is not squash and kale. I love winter vegetables but this has been a long one.
Silvia Piatoni, Chef/Owner
1317 St. Clair Avenue West, 416-656-8622
Family-run Trattoria serving classic Italian dishes
What dish is your restaurant famous for? Gnocchi Gratinati, Ciriole, a hand rolled pasta with homemade pomodoro sauce. A traditional dish of Umbria.
What is your favourite thing about Midtown? You can walk to find everything you need. There are many family owned shops and restaurants as well.
Have you had any interesting or celeb customers? The list is to long, but our favourites are Joe Mantegna and Ryan Gosling.
What has been your proudest moment in business? In business for 39 years and recognized by the neighbourhood, locals and the Italian community.
Who is your favourite chef in the world? My Mom and Lidia Bastianich.
Which of your dishes is your favourite? Parpadelle Tartufate - in a wild mushroom sauce and sauteéd in brandy and garlic, topped with truffle oil.
How will you be changing up the menu this spring? We will be using even more local Ontario ingredients. Adding a variety of polenta and traditional dishes from Umbria.
Cucina di Paisano
865 York Mills Road, 416-222-5487
50 years of delectable Italian cuisine for the family
What dish is your restaurant famous for? Chicken Parmigiana, veal Parmigiana, or eggplant Parmigiana. We might see whole families all order one.
What is your favourite thing about Midtown? Families. It feels as though there are more families in our neighborhood than others.
What has been your proudest moment in business? After over 50 years in North York, getting to watch couples get married, become parents, celebrate birthdays, going off to school and couples coming home to meet the parents.
Which of your dishes is your favourite? Lasagna. Stacked high lots of beef and ricotta. Such a warm satisfying feeling!
How will you be changing up the menu this spring? We are rediscovering arugula this spring. Fresh, sweet and slightly bitter. Lots of fresh ideas.
Who taught you how to cook? For me growing up, food preparation always involved the whole family. If you weren’t pickling, you were skinning tomatoes, peeling apples or boiling maple sap.
Tiramisu or Panna Cotta? Tiramisu means "pick me up, cheer me up or lift me up". When done right, it is such a mood lifter!