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Woodlot

You Are Here: Little Italy

Though no longer exclusively Italian, this neighbourhood retains a friendly European appeal with numerous cafés and casual restaurants, independent boutiques and more.

Soundscapes (photo by Gizelle Lau)

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.

Grace

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.

Briscola Trattoria (photo by Gizelle Lau)

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.
View You Are Here: Little Italy in a larger map

Hot Dining: Luminato’s Local Flavours

JUNE 18 & 19 Few cities in the world boast as much culinary diversity as Toronto. As part of Luminato, dozens of chefs and restaurants from around the city present their unique dishes for 1,000 Tastes of Toronto. During this open-air street food festival, foodies of all types can sample gourmet, globally influenced bites for $5 per dish, from such lauded restaurants as Lee, Woodlot, Milagro and more. Wander to the food demonstration stage while you eat to learn about how the chefs prepare their delicacies. On John Street, from King to Richmond streets, Saturday noon to 9 p.m., Sunday noon to 6 p.m.; call 416-368-3100 or click here for more information.

Hot Dining: Woodlot’s Cabin Cuisine

Since opening just a few months ago, Woodlot has become one of Toronto’s most buzzed-about restaurants. And for good reason: chef David Haman cut his teeth in some of the city’s top kitchens, as well as Spain’s famous El Bulli. At the helm of this new eatery, Haman has distilled his craft to its simplest, most mouthwatering essence. Instead of molecular gastronomy, diners can expect comfort food of the highest order—locally sourced, of course—with options for both vegetarians and omnivores. Much of the menu is cooked in a huge wood-burning oven, which, cabin-like, lends further warmth to the eminently cozy room.