FLAVOUR A trendy strip with an intimate European atmosphere, known for its coffee bars, pool halls, lounges, trattorias and some of the best Italian cuisine this side of the Atlantic.
GETTING THERE Take the Yonge or University subway to College or Queen’s Park, respectively. Hop on a westbound streetcar, and hop off at Bathurst Street.
THE CLOCK After 8 p.m. the street comes alive.
WHAT TO DO The best way to experience Little Italy is to simply walk the strip on a warm summer’s evening—the endless patios are packed, tidbits of conversation and live music pour out into the night air as the aroma of fresh herbs, garlic and baking bread alert your senses to the fine cuisine all around you. While the bulk of restaurants feature Italian cooking, there are also a growing number of venues featuring Portuguese, Mediterranean and French menus—a reflection of the changing demographic within the neighbourhood’s streets, as well as its expanding tastes.
But it’s not all about the food here—after the last plates have been cleared away, an exciting nightlife emerges. For Latin music and dancing (as well as a campy drag show every weekend) check out El Convento Rico (750 College St., 416-588-7800). If sitting back with a cocktail is more your style, take a sip at Sutra (612 College St., 416-537-8755) or Lily (656 College St., 416-532-0419). If the bar scene is not for you, enjoy a visual feast at The Royal (606 College St., 416-516-4845), an independent cinema showing an eclectic bill of films.
WHAT TO BUY While Little Italy may be better known for food than fashion, there are still a few reasons to hit College Street by day. In response to the growing presence of young hipsters who now live alongside the established Italianfamilies, a number of stylish shops have emerged, including Motoretta (554 College St., 416-925-1818), which carries a great selection of Vespas, and Set Me Free (653 College St., 416-516-6493), featuring cool urban gear. Need a retail break? Before sitting down with an espresso, hit Presse Internationale (622 College St. 416-535-9666) for a wide selection of magazines and newspapers from around the world. To re-create Little Italy at home, check out the several Italian bakeries (many open until late-night) and Magnolia (548 College St., 416-920-9927), a beautifully designed specialty foods shop stocked with fresh produce, pasta, oils and sauces.
WHAT TO EAT Italian cuisine has long dominated the scene here and, while changes have come and gone, it remains the main dish. Not to be missed are Bar Italia, Grappa Ristorante, and Café Diplomatico (594 College St., 416-534-4637) featuring one of the greatest patio scenes in the city. For a taste of Portugal, check out the authentic cuisine at Chiado, Sintra and Leão D’ouro. In the mood for something completely different? Sample foods with a Mediterranean flare at the Moroccan-inspired Coco Lezzone and sleekly designed Teatro or lose yourself in the mouth-watering menu at Xacutti. For a cool, sweet end to the evening, stop by The Big Chill (367 Manning St., 416-960-2455) for an array of frozen treats.
PHOTO OP The people, the lights, the cars and the bustling patio life at College and Clinton streets.