| Where to Eat Now The city’s best new restau­rants, re­viewed, plus the hottest Nashville hot chicken

Two Buca Yorkville ex­pats are bring­ing Ital­ian back to taco- and tapas-heavy Col­lege Street

Toronto Life - - Contents - by mark pupo

Pass through the heavy, Game of Thrones doors, and you’ll swear you’ve en­tered a vin­tage Vene­tian tav­ern of nail head–trimmed chairs, coun­try land­scapes and solid crock­ery. The brass wall pan­els wouldn’t be out of place in a con­fes­sional booth, and dimmed sconces lend every­thing the glow of patina. But this trendy spot is the new home of chef Ryan Camp­bell and man­ager­som­me­lier Giuseppe March­esini, both last of Buca Yorkville, the most lav­ish of Rob Gen­tile’s up­mar­ket Ital­ian restau­rants. Il Covo is an anom­aly: an Ital­ian restau­rant that doesn’t serve pizza or fam­ily-style plates of pasta. The spe­cialty here is ci­c­chetti, the Vene­tian equiv­a­lent of Span­ish pin­chos—graz­ing food best con­sumed while stand­ing at a bar with a glass of wine. Camp­bell’s are fancier: golden-fried fin­ger sand­wiches of bay scal­lop and side stripe shrimp; a flower-shaped buf­falo-ri­cotta-and-thyme dumpling in a hen’s broth so clear and in­tensely chick­eny it would make most non­nas jeal­ous; and ten­der brisket, slow-braised in a Cal­abrian licorice liqueur.

Veg­e­tar­i­ans would cringe at my favourite dish: Camp­bell braises car­rot spears in pork fat ren­dered from jamón ibérico, rests them on a clove-scented car­rot emul­sion, and fin­ishes them off with toasted lentils and (more) pork. The menu in­cludes a leg­end, in obei­sance to our di­etary-re­stric­tive times, not­ing which dishes are made with nuts, lac­tose, wheat, shell­fish, egg, pork, gar­lic, onion or black pep­per. What else is left?

Down­stairs is a hushed wine cel­lar stacked with in­ter­est­ing and ex­clu­sively Ital­ian finds, like a pleas­antly funky, un­fil­tered orange wine from Molise, and sweeter ones to com­ple­ment a dainty espres­soflavoured lay­ered sponge cake. The wait staff is mostly Ital­ian, too, as are many of the op­tions in a list of hon­eys to pair, for a sur­charge, with a se­lec­tion of Ital­ian cheeses. (This is, I be­lieve, our city’s first restau­rant with a honey up­grade.)

Every­thing is as­sured and pol­ished—al­most the­atri­cally so—but also cal­cu­lated: at the end of the meal, you’re pre­sented with a minia­ture trea­sure chest, con­tain­ing your not in­con­se­quen­tial bill.

Be­low: brasato di manzo, a hunk of beef brisket braised in a Cal­abrian licorice liqueur

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