Spe­ducci skew­ers the com­pe­ti­tion

Toronto Star - - LIFE - AMY PATAKI RESTAU­RANT CRITIC

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. ap­ataki@thes­tar.ca, Twit­ter @amy­pataki

RICK MADONIK PHO­TOS/TORONTO STAR

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.

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