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Say 'Si' to Toronto's Top Italian Restaurants



Occasionally, the world cuts out carbs in an attempt to encourage losing weight or cleaning up a diet. However, when thinking from the heart and from the tastebuds, most of us cannot resist carbs in the form of Italian food. Far removed from Chef Boyardee, the best Italian food is a slow process of love, from hand chopped tomatoes to carefully kneaded dough. As a result, it can comfort as much as satisfy. 

Toronto is filled to the brim with Italian restaurants. Some of these restaurants are authentic, while others have come a far way from Italy. Our choices are as delicious as if you made the plane ride over to Rome. We won't discourage the trip, but in the meantime you deserve the mouth-watering gnocchi at Enoteca Sociale or the fall-off-the-bone meat mains at Tutti Matti

Many of us cook Italian food at home on those nights when we are too tired to cook. A jar of sauce, some dried pasta and the belly is filled. However, it is a soul changing experience when fresh pasta marries with all-day simmering sauce. Going to one of these restaurants is to partake in a passionate relationship with your food. Linger and savour every bite at any one of our 10 Best choices.


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10
Downtown


One of the hottest Italian restaurants in Toronto, Mistura is the brainchild of respected restaurateurs Massimo Capra and Paolo Paolini, now with executive chef Klaus Rohrich at the helm. Their innovative seasonal menu, coupled with the casual but incredibly stylish décor, ensures a fantastic dining experience. Tuna carpaccio, fresh calamari, or warm asparagus with a sunny-side up egg and black truffle vinaigrette each make an equally impressive start; good impressions are reinforced with entrees of braised rabbit, balsamic-glazed lamb ribs, and Tuscan-style seafood stew. White tablecloths and fine glassware ask that its patrons make an effort and dress to impress.




"We love food. We love wine. We love racing." So declares the website of Ascari Enoteca, named after 1950s racing legend Alberto Ascari. Pastas are made fresh in house every single day and the menu changes both seasonally and locally. There are a nice variety of red and white wines by the bottle or the glass, but you can also pamper yourself with a flight and have 2oz pours of some fine selections. Small bites are simple but executed beautifully, such as skewers of lamb with lemon zest and Maldon salt. The pasta sauces complement the fresh noodles, with ingredients from homemade sausage to pork shoulder with cream sauce. Flawless food in reasonable portions; this is a neighbourhood restaurant that shines.




A celebrity magnet if ever there was one, Sotto Sotto was destroyed by a fire on Christmas Eve 2014. It didn't take long for it to become a phoenix a few doors down, allowing Drake to have his "second home" once again. Sotto Sotto (meaning "underneath") offers flattering candlelight, attentive service, and a massive menu of simple classics and more complex creations. Owned and run by Roman Marisa Rocca, there's an abundance of seafood, salads and meat options. Pastas are available as second or main courses; try traditional spaghetti al pomodoro or spicy rigatoni puttanesca with anchovies and black olives. Main courses feature veal, beef, seafood and poultry, and there are several divine risotti options.


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7
Cabbagetown


This restaurant is on Amelia street, so it could not be more aptly named. However, the restaurant's amiability extends far beyond the entrance. Owners and waiters learn your name quickly and don't rush you through your Northern Italian dinner. F'Amelia is a cozy trattoria tucked on the corner of a residential neighbourhood. It feels like you were plunked right in Tuscany, and the gently blistered pizza crusts say no differently. Try the pappardelle with rosemary braised rabbit, or one of their signature pies which use San Marzano tomatoes. The wine list has many affordable options to savour over the evening. Only the best for you.




Sometimes going out for Italian food seems counterintuitive. How hard is it for you to stay at home and boil some pasta? Blu gives you the Italian food you cannot make yourself at home, unless you have ample time and have studied under masters (or grandmothers) in Italy. With a romantic setting and live music every weekend, it is the perfect place to slurp some pasta with someone you love (or at the very least, like). Try the truffle wild boar ragu with wild mushrooms over lemon ricotta gnocchi for a dish that will make your eyes roll back into your head.


5
Downtown


Some people have been to Italy and fondly remember the flavours. For others, the closest they have come is watching Under the Tuscan Sun on the W Network. In either case, going to Tutti Matti is a flavour experience that is rare in downtown Toronto. Chef Alida Solomon trained in Tuscany and her succinct menu celebrates Tuscan flavours. Her kitchen is open concept in the middle of the restaurant. Meals are robust, like short ribs with beer, rosemary and oranges. The appetizers are equally luscious and well proportioned, like the toscano board that comes with gooey cheese, salumi and house made terrine. You may not want to stuff yourself, but it will be hard not to try to cram as much of this perfectly balanced food into your mouth.


4
West Toronto


This is the real deal kind of pizza. You may find yourself enthusiastically affirming the taste of real Neopolitan Pizza at Pizzeria Libretto in Italian. Or, if words fail you, "Mmmm" works well in most languages. This pizza has a soft chewy crust that is beautifully blistered by the piping hot oven. Each pizza is made as a single serving and is not overwhelmed with toppings. Cheese and toppings such as duck confit or house made sausage merely accent the pie, allowing it to be melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The result is a meal that feels lighter than it looks. Even people who are convinced they will just have a slice may find themselves downing a whole pizza. Perfect to eat and then take a nap.




Piano piano refers to the Italian phrase "piano piano va lontano," meaning, "slowly slowly we go further." But you already knew that - what about the food? Taking the place of 25 year old restaurant Splendido on Harbord Street, Piano Piano has an open kitchen with nothing to hide. Made-from-scratch pastas come in such flavors as Canestri alla vodka with a creamy tomato, chili and marscapone. Pizzas have modern ingredients like wilted dandelion. And should you find yourself without a sitter, this is an extremely family-friendly environment. After the kids order, they can go to the play room, or battle over a vintage Pac Man game or classic games like dominoes and Go Fish. You can try your best to have an adult conversation or join them.


2
Downtown

Buca is right in the heart of downtown Toronto, and it earns every loonie it receives. Dimly lit with brick walls, the ambience is charmingly rustic. The menu changes daily and utilizes ingredients that capitalize on flavour profile more so than popularity of ingredients. Lamb brains might be wrapped in prosciutto as an appetizer. Don't question it. Extravagantly rich dishes include duck egg pasta with duck offal ragu, or pork braised in 34 year old wine vinegar and then strewn across a pizza. The final result is lavish, memorable and upscale Italian food.


1
West Toronto


Enoteca Sociale is built around the idea of wine bars in Rome. Enoteca Sociale manages to take basic ingredients and elevate them. The pasta is made in house, as are many other dishes, included the freshly baked bread that tempts on each table. If you like the experience of eating off of your date's plate, a la Lady and the Tramp, sharing dishes under the menu column "Piatti Sociale" are all unique and delectable.The wine list has over 80 selections from Italy but also includes fine Ontario reds and whites. Normally you have to splurge in a bottle in order to sample the good stuff, but Enoteca offers tastes, glasses, quartinos (a carafe that can hold a quarter of a litre of wine) or bottles. You won't forget this dinner.


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Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney

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