New Ital eats in the 905

Richmond Hill Post - - Counter Culture -

Plus Yonge & Eg gets a mam­moth wine bar, se­ri­ous Ja­panese from some se­ri­ous chefs and more

MAD FOR ITAL­IAN

Fans of pizza, pasta and egg­plant parm take note, the 905 has a swanky new Ital­ian eatery: Novita Ital­ian .

Housed in the for­mer Fire & Ice space, Novita is an ex­pan­sive scene, boast­ing high ceil­ings, an im­pres­sive wine rack and an open con­cept kitchen.

The menu tends to­ward the tra­di­tional — there’s no Italy-meets-Ja­maica here. Guests can tuck into clas­sic an­tipasto, such as the baked egg­plant parmi­giano, and tomato-topped bruschetta, done us­ing calabrese. Cala­mari is avail­able both grilled — tossed with black olives, capers and toma­toes — and fritti, served with aïoli for dip­ping.

Pizza-wise, pies in­clude the Aure­lio, which is topped with pro­sciutto, mozza, ar­ti­chokes and fin­ished with a mound of fresh arugula. Pas­tas, which are also avail­able gluten-free, in­clude the lin­guine al pesce, which comes tossed with shrimp, clams, mus­sels and cala­mari. From the se­lec­tion of risotto, the shrimp, scal­lop pesto and spinach is a pop­u­lar pick.

Pollo Mi­lano — one of the en­trees — fea­tures stuffed chicken served with mixed ’shrooms, asi­ago, spinach and sun-dried tomato in a tar­ragon rosé sauce.

If you’re able to tuck into some dessert, the server will wheel a cart around to show the day’s se­lec­tions. Look out for more clas­sics like ev­ery­body’s favourite: tiramisù.

Serv­ings tend to fall on the gen­er­ous side, so come hun­gry (Novita Ital­ian Cui­sine, 25 Cochrane Dr., Markham, 905-9471900). — Karolyne El­la­cott

PASTA PER­FEC­TION

Cibo Wine Bar has ex­panded its reach to a midtown hub once lauded for up­scale Ital­ian. For­merly Ar­mando Mano’s noted Cen­tro and, most re­cently, Vita So­ciale, the sprawl­ing 10,000-square-foot din­ing room has been trans­formed into another swanky space for lovers of all things Ital­ian.

Although this is the sec­ond Toronto lo­ca­tion of Cibo, this marks the fourth space over­all. The minichain has two out­posts in Mi­ami. In­side, the sig­na­ture Crys­tal Head Vodka wall will greet you upon en­try to the 200-seat main din­ing room. The space en­com­passes two floors and in­cludes a large bar, lounge area and an open kitchen.

But it’s the wine room that pro­vides the most oc­u­lar in­trigue: the glass-en­cased, 64-de­gree cli­mate-con­trolled and sound­proof room is home to a cool 2,500 bot­tles.

Com­mis­sioned art by graf­fiti icon Mr. Brain­wash is bran­dished on sev­eral walls. His piece Life Is

Beau­ti­ful stands as the motto for Cibo and the mantra of Na­dia Di Donato and hus­band Nick Di Donato, pres­i­dent and CEO of Lib­erty En­ter­tain­ment Group.

“The idea is al­ways to be do­ing the pos­i­tive thing,” ex­plains Nick over a sip of Amarone and a bite of Ital­ian pro­sciutto shaved from the $25,000 Berkel slicer. “It’s the mes­sage in the art as much as in the food and ser­vice we try to pro­vide.”

With 18 wines by the glass and over 180 la­bels to pluck from, there’s cer­tainly no dearth of choice when it comes to vino. Make sure to keep an eye out as your “wine an­gel” hoists her­self up by har­ness to snag a bot­tle from the tow­er­ing wine room. Bythe-glass op­tions can be kept for 30 days post cork­age, thanks to the Eno­matic dis­pens­ing sys­tem.

The menu at Cibo Yonge Street is a model of the King West lo­ca­tion. Ex­ec­u­tive chef Sev­e­rio Marci’s hand­made pas­tas are hung to dry on racks by the open kitchen. The pizza oven ra­di­ates a warm glow along a por­tion of the 45-foot-long white mar­ble coun­ter­top. There is no freezer to be found, en­sur­ing that all in­gre­di­ents are brought in fresh.

Dredge fresh baked bread sprin­kled with rose­mary through pools of olive oil and bal­samic or top warm slices with pick­led chilies. Dunk po­lenta fries into Gor­gonzola sauce or a spicy mari­nara dip. Deeply flavoured pap­padelle with slow cooked lamb ragu topped with shaved pecorino pays homage to Nick’s home­town of San Ni­cola Ba­ro­nia in Naples. The catch of the day — baked whole fish — in­cluded a crisp-skinned branzino done sim­ply with le­mon, pars­ley and EVOO.

Although the kitchen bell rings at mid­night, the bar will re­main open un­til the last midtown wine lover de­cides it’s time to saunter home (Cibo Wine Bar, 2472 Yonge St., 416-925-0016). — Jason Fine­stone

A FRIENDLY COL­LABO

Bill Hu, Michi Tanata and Osamu Fukushige have each spent over 27 years in the Toronto res­tau­rant scene. Vet­er­ans of highly re­garded Ja­panese es­tab­lish­ments (Ki, Nami, Edo), the long­time friends have banded to­gether for their own pro­ject: Yu­taka.

Yu­taka oc­cu­pies the for­mer Gar­den Res­tau­rant space at Dun­das and Univer­sity, known for its sloppy late-night Chi­nese cui­sine. The 120-seat din­ing room has been given a facelift, boast­ing clean lines, com­fort­able booths and an 18-seat sushi bar to boot.

Browse over 20 choices of sake, in­clud­ing Izumi Sake pro­duced lo­cally in the Dis­tillery Dis­trict.

Each of the three chefs staffs a dif­fer­ent part of the kitchen: Hu helms the ro­bata grill; Tanata han­dles the pre­pared kitchen items; Fukushige is sushi master.

Hu fo­cuses on fish and seafood prepa­ra­tions on his ro­bata grill, such as smoky horse mack­erel with a sweet soy sauce poured ta­ble­side. Tanata pre­pares re­fined dishes like the rich oys­ter isobeyake with yuzu miso sea­weed mayo and beef tataki with mus­tard miso. Fukushige worked as a whole­sale fish sup­plier for a num­ber of years and claims to have unique ac­cess to ex­otic daily catches. He buys be­tween 12 to 15 va­ri­eties of fish per day.

Scored and seared sea bream sushi is matched up with jalapeno-in­fused soy sauce — one of five kinds Fukushige makes in-house. Span­ish squid sweet­ens with each chew, and al­ba­core tuna is seared, mar­i­nated in soy sauce and topped with a gar­lic chip (Yu­taka, 157 Dun­das St. W., 416-596-6877). — Jason Fine­stone

SCUT­TLE­BUTT

Where Le Petit Cas­tor for­merly stood, Carens Rosedale — the iconic Yorkville wine bar’s sec­ond spot — has flung open its doors.

The McEwan Group has just opened its latest: McEwan in the PATH. A beast of a space (6,000 square feet), the spot aims to se­duce all the suits with its grab ’n’ go lunch­ables (pani­nis, sal­ads and food truck–inspired items) along with stuff to take home.

Ex-Splen­dido chef Pa­trick Kriss has just opened his highly an­tic­i­pated res­tau­rant Alo at 163 Spad­ina Ave. The fo­cus of the space will be the tast­ing menus, which look to con­tem­po­rary French cui­sine with a nod to sea­son­al­ity.

Clock­wise from left: The grandiose in­te­rior at Cibo, horse mack­erel at Yu­taka, an arugula-topped pizza from Novita

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