Speducci skewers the competition
Speducci Mercatto K (out of 4) Address: 46 Milford Ave. (near Keele St.), 416-242-2777, speducci.com Chef: Gabriele Paganelli
Hours: Monday to Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations: Yes Wheelchair access: Yes Price: Lunch for two with wine, tax and tip: $65 When was the last time you ate a three-course meal, with wine, inside a butcher shop?
For me, it was last month at Speducci Mercatto, a two-year-old Italian spot that quietly thrives on an industrial street near Keele St. and Lawrence Ave. W.
I can’t wait to do it again. Combining a retail meat counter with a licensed restaurant works as brilliantly as Campari with orange juice. As such, Speducci (named for the meat skewers it sells) beats Eataly, the vaunted artisanal food concept coming to Toronto next year, to the punch.
Pretty much everything is excellent. Plus there’s parking. The vibe The dining area takes up one end of the long room, a walk-in salami fridge the other — the aroma! In between are ready-to-cook steaks and roasts under glass and shelves of high-end imported comestibles.
Italian-speaking customers, many from the surrounding Design District, amble in for lunch.
“The usual?” the waiter asks a greyhaired patron in a blazer and jeans.
“Our business has become a very special place to many people in this area,” says co-owner Rosie Scavuzzo (formerly of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment). The coffee, olives and bread are all good. Service, how- ever, is the weak spot, confident one day, scattered another. Special salumi Part of Speducci’s genius is its way with controlled decay. Co-owner Gabriele Paganelli makes salumi. His artisanal products, made from pig, boar, beef and sometimes venison, are medal winners.
A sample board ($15) pulls out the big guns: creamy ’nduja red with chilies, sweet salami, fennel-spiked finocchio, air-dried bresaola and coppa, culatello and shaved prosciutto.
Thin slices let light shine through the glassy pinks and translucent oranges of the cured meats.
Should you bring the sausages home ($19.49 a pound for gentile salami), it’s hard to duplicate the thinness without having access to your own deli slicer. Chef’s choice Paganelli, a chef from Ravenna, Italy, ran Romagna Mia restaurant on Front St. E. for years.
Many of those old favourites are available at Speducci, such as his strozzapreti pasta with thick wild boar tomato sauce. On the menu, it’s $18. In a litre jar, the sauce is $19.49 to take home.
Ethereal tagliatelle ($15) comes with a proper Bolognese ragu; Paganelli makes his from the best kind of butcher scraps. Pizza ($12) is nicely crisp and thin. Lasagna ($15) is rich, the spinach pasta ballooning out like a hoop skirt. It goes well with a glass of Barbera d’Alba ($8). Better greens Salad greens can tell you a lot. Those underneath properly grilled meat skewers ($12) are more interesting than most, with radicchio and red leaf lettuce mixed in with the arugula, cucumber and grape tomatoes.
They are certainly fresher than most, simply dressed in balsamic vinaigrette.
The same restraint works well with homemade desserts such as the cannoli filled to order ($2), tiramisu ($6) and Nutella pizza ($12). Pistachios, chocolate and ricotta go a long way.
I’ve eaten at Eataly’s smaller location in Rome, beside the ancient baths of Diocletian. Speducci is amongst autobody shops.
The deliciousness, however, is the same. firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @amypataki
Grilled lamb skewers, above. Diners take up part of the room and the butcher counter takes up the rest in Speducci’s Design District space.
A board of artisanal cured meats, a Speducci Mercatto house specialty.
Ravenna-born chef Gabriele Paganelli inside the prosciutto room.