Though no longer exclusively Italian, this neighbourhood retains a friendly European appeal with numerous cafés and casual restaurants, independent boutiques and more.
SUMMER TREAT Sweet escape Dolce Gelato
(697 College St., 416-915-0756) has been serving house-made artisan gelato since 2006, before it became the “cool” thing to do. More than 40 gelato and fruit sorbet flavours are on the menu here, including favourites like hazelnut, pistachio and green tea, plus classics like chocolate and vanilla. Crepes, waffles, Italian cannoli and Dufflet cakes are also available.
NOW HEAR THIS A throwback to the glory days of record stores, Soundscapes packs all manner of vinyl, CDs, concert DVDs and music lit into its cozy space, organized by categories like “prog art noise,” “psych garage,” “experimental” and “British invasion.” Like any good indie music store, the friendly staff are quick to recommend new tunes, especially those by local and Canadian artists.
COMFORT CUISINE The inviting interior of Grace is just one reason why it’s regarded as one of the best restaurants on the block. Here, chef Dustin Gallagher—lately of Top Chef Canada—elevates “Sunday dinner” staples into delicate and refined dishes, while avoiding any fine-dining stuffiness. Fresh seasonal salads, house-made ricotta gnudi and stuffed quail are just a few items on the reasonably priced menu.
GOOD EATING Inside an old garage, rustic Woodlot doles out crispy-on-the-outside and soft-and-fluffy on the inside loaves, croissants and French madeleines by day. By night, honest and simple Canadian cuisine takes the stage. Meats are roasted in a giant wood-burning oven, vegetables are fresh, seasonal and local, and home-style pastas prove worthy of the restaurant’s Little Italy locale.
PIZZA, PASTA AND MORE The newest restaurant on the block, Briscola Trattoria (501 College St., 416-964-1555) lures diners with a classic window front of white lace curtains and retro signage. Inside, though, the vibe is a bit more sophisticated—great for sipping cocktails and vino. The menu offers fun, contemporary twists on such traditional favourites as eggplant parmesan, margherita pizza and grilled veal chop with ragout.
TOP IT OFF Designer Karyn Gingras opened Lilliput Hats in Little Italy more than 17 years ago. In that time her headpieces have gained international acclaim, topping off celebs like Celine Dion, Sandra Oh and Rachel McAdams. Stop by to see Gingras in her atelier boutique. She’s happy to tell you about traditional methods of hat making and help you pick one out for your next garden party.
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