New Ital eats in the 905
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
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
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