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Wining and Dining in Toronto’s Little Italy

For a romantic dinner—or a chic spot for any evening—Little Italy is the perfect place. Try our picks to find out why it’s College Street’s hippest strip.

POSH PIZZERIA The open kitchen’s rustic wood-burning pizza oven is the main attraction at casually elegant trattoria Vivoli—think Veuve Clicquot with your pizza puttanesca. The menu boasts 15 authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas (thin-crust and flash-fired), as well as an extensive and tempting list of appetizers, pastas, risottos, mains and killer desserts. 665 College St., 416-536-7575.

FAMILY WARMTH Serving authentic Italian classics, the family-owned Bella Vista Trattoria & Wine Bar creates a calm, more adult ambience—as in no DJ. Honest, straightforward dishes, like house-made gnocchi, ravioli and veal, are complemented by a decent wine list. The room is contemporary-casual with warm woods, comfortable chocolate-brown booths and ochre walls. 660 College St., 416-532-2518.

VINTAGE GLAM At Veni Vidi Vici, old-world charm—a vaulted gold-tin ceiling, sepia frescoes—meets classic Italian fare, with a few surprising forays into fusion. A golden glow hangs over very private, high-backed booths where classics are served like penne alla vodka at dinner and eggs Benedict for brunch. A balanced wine list looks after every preference and budget. 650 College St., 416-536-8550.

WINE AWARD La Forchetta Ristorante exudes a romantic vibe and cluttered charm—some of the wine collection is shelved in the dining room. The quietly refined restaurant serves nouvelle-continental meets traditional-regional Italian cuisine. Mains show a fondness for game meats and risottos. A sommelier can help navigate the Wine Spectator Award–winning wine list. 613 College St., 416-534-3100.

SOFT FUSION The setting at Riva Supper Lounge is reason enough to come inside: warm brick and red walls are softened by candlelight reflected by crystal chandeliers and mirrors. But it’s the fusion menu of Mediterranean and Italian cuisines that will keep you. Linger long enough to dance when some of the city’s hottest DJs do their thing. 584 College St., 416-588-7377.

STIRRED, NOT SHAKEN Named for the vintage cocktail of cognac and Cointreau, the long room at Sidecar is warm and inviting with exposed brick, sultry reds and oranges, glowing wood, brass and glass. The simply elegant menu of classics—duck confit, Serrano ham, crispy oven-roasted chicken—is paired not with wine, but rather house cocktails designed to enhance the food perfectly. 577 College St., 416-536-7000.

LOCAL FAVE After 16 years and an extreme restaurant makeover, College Street Bar is enjoying a renaissance. Part bar, part restaurant, part live music venue, this neighbourhood institution appeals to a varied clientele, from young and hip to not-so-young but hip nevertheless. They come to indulge in seafood-centric Italian standards, creative martinis, microbrews and live music. 574 College St., 416-533-2417.

VIVE LA FRANCE Located at the eastern edge of Little Italy sits a tiny piece of France. With minimalist decor of bare wooden tables and chairs, tin ceilings, and well-worn floors, the cozy La Gamelle hums with hustling servers and relaxed locals tucking into bistro classics: frisée salad, sautéed guinea fowl leg and Quebec blue cheese dressing, or French escargots, frog’s legs and wild mushroom fricassée with jerez sherry-vinegar reduction. 468 College St., 416-923-6254.

TIP! To get to Little Italy, take the Yonge-University subway line to Queen’s Park station. From there, board the 506 Carlton streetcar and head westbound. Get off anywhere between Euclid Avenue (three blocks west of Bathurst Street) and Shaw Street (east of Ossington Avenue).

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