Arts & Entertainment
2 min

La bella Città

Southern Italian cuisine warms up City Place

I have to admit I was getting a little sick of Toronto’s Asian cuisine. It’s not that I don’t adore Chinese food, sushi, Indian and Thai, but what was once new and inspiring is now available on every street corner. The trend had become familiar. I needed shaking up.

I tried the barbecue craze. Good, but kind of salty. And despite the hipster stamp of approval, the whole caveman/charcuterie fad just kind of grosses me out — sorry, no jellied brains for this homo. Then I rediscovered Italian.

Growing up in rural Ontario, Italian cuisine was represented by pizza and Chef Boyardee. Even the local Italian restaurant never strayed far from spaghetti and meatballs or veal piccata. So this new flush of rustic Italian eateries has been a delicious awakening for me.

Honest, simple ingredients coupled with traditional cooking technique.

Certainly among the top of my list of current favourites is Città, a chic airy space nestled in the heart of Harbourfront at City Place (formerly the Railway Lands). With only a few months of business under its belt, this restaurant perfectly epitomizes rustic Southern Italian cuisine: honest, simple ingredients coupled with traditional cooking technique.

“We know we’re not in Italia, but we do like to bring a little of Italy here,” says Jay Costescu, manager of the eatery. “It’s a humble service, a humble menu, but we like to execute it at a high level.”

They succeed.

The night I visit Città, my companion and I decide to throw ourselves upon the server’s mercy. We tell her we’re hungry and game to eat anything that doesn’t come with its face attached. Within a few minutes we’re munching on their salumi appetizer, a mouth-watering selection of perfectly cured Italian meats, served with grilled bread, fresh olives and tart house mustard. It disappears  and is quickly replaced with germogli crostini, topped with beautifully roasted Brussels sprouts, pancetta and quail eggs with maple speck. It’s sweet and salty, and nearly a meal in itself.

Our server is attentive and friendly, asking us not only if we enjoyed each dish, but what we liked about them. I don’t know if this is part of Città’s staff training, but other restaurants should take note. Her suggestion of mains to share was note-perfect: the pappardelle con funghi with its broad noodles and musky chanterelle mushrooms wrapped in velvety ricotta, and the spicy consenza pizza, laden with soppressata and pepperoncini and cooked to perfection in the restaurant’s wood-fired ovens.

I have to admit dessert defeated us, but not before we tasted the creamy-meets-crunchy zeppoli pastry, filled with mascarpone and cherry, and the decadent bomboloni donut, bursting with chocolate and caramel cream.

This was not a light meal. But head chef Ben Heaton (formerly of The Grove) showcases flavours so rich and satisfying, that neither my companion nor I stuffed ourselves silly. I sometimes think the tendency to over-indulge comes while hunting an elusive flavour, a tantalizing hint of something we can’t get enough of. Highly recommended.

Città, 92 Fort York Blvd, Toronto