It can be hard to stay on top of Toronto’s ever-evolving food trends (we'll miss you, cronut burger) but thankfully you can always find solace in some rustic, dependable, and comforting Italian food. It never goes out of style, and here are nine of the best places to get it in the city.
What you’re getting: House-Made Spaghetti All’Amatriciana
Sometimes the simplest things are the best things and Campagnolo’s much-loved Spaghetti All’Amatriciana proves that flavor doesn’t have to mean frills. The rustic Italian spot on Dundas is about as warm and romantic as it gets, and this ultra-comforting pasta dish has been a favourite on their menu since day one.
What you’re getting: Smendozzata pizza
There are several locations of this popular Italian resto, but the Queen St. locale was the first and never ceases to pull in crowds (read: expect a lineup). But the wait is always worth it for the varied card of regional Italian dishes focused on pasta and pizza. If it’s a wallop of flavour you’re in the mood for, you can’t go wrong with the Smendozzata pie featuring tomato, mozzarella, homemade spicy sausage, gorgonzola and red onions. If that combo doesn’t wake up your taste buds, nothing will.
What you’re getting: Mafalde ai Funghi
The always-bustling Gusto 101 offers a fun, energetic, unpretentious atmosphere, and one that can easily cater to everyone from couples, to families, to groups of friends. The varied menu of Southern Italian classics has a lot of dishes worth coming back for, but the Mafalde ai Funghi is a standout. Earthy and rich, the creamy plate of pasta is comprised of portobello, porcini, and oyster mushrooms bathed in a truffle cream sauce. Bonus: Gusto 101 is also a micro-winery, and they’ve got wine on tap for $1 an ounce.
What you’re getting: Margherita D.O.P.
The Ossington outpost of Pizzeria Libretto was one of the first places to put the now restaurant-saturated strip on the foodie map -- and it remains as committed as ever to turning out near-perfect pizzas. It’s tough to go wrong with any of their thin-crust Neapolitan pies, but we say go traditional with the Margherita D.O.P. Tomato, basil and mozzarella make for a comforting combination that never disappoints.
What you’re getting: Agnolotti
The team behind Pizzeria Libretto is also responsible for this entry on our list of go-to Italian spots in Toronto. Pastas here are always consistent, and it’s hard to make a wrong move menu-wise, but if you’re looking for something lighter the agnolotti is the way to go. Perfectly cooked pillows of pasta are flavoured with fresh peas, fava beans, mint, preserved lemon and goat butter. There’s a great side patio in the summer, and service is attentive even when things get hectic.
What you’re getting: Pizza (any of them, really)
There are two locations of friendly, inviting Pizza e Pazzi along St. Clair West, and both offer a relaxed atmosphere and a place to get authentic Neapolitan pizza -- so authentic it comes complete with appropriate certification and gets baked in an oven straight from Naples. There’s a good selection of house-made pastas here (as well as calzones), but really, it’s all about the blistered, thin-crust pizzas. Choose from pizza rosse which have a tomato base or pizza bianche with a cheese base, depending on your preference.
What you’re getting: Gnocchi
Sometimes gnocchi can be tricky -- what should be soft and delicate can easily come to your table leaden and chewy. Not so at Carisma, where the hand-cut ricotta gnocchi are always fluffy. These ones come dressed simply but decadently in a four cheese sauce that gets trapped in the small grooves of each melt-in-your-mouth morsel.
What you’re getting: Milazzo Pizza
Nodo was a welcome addition the Junction when it quietly opened up in a former antique shop last year, and the casual neighbourhood eatery remains a consistently good option for Italian. Their uniquely topped Milazzo pizza comes adorned with a lively combo of fresh mozz, mascarpone, cantaloupe and prosciutto crudo. The result is salty and creamy, with a hint of sweetness.
What you’re getting: Bigoli
This upscale supper spot is regularly ranked among the best for Italian, along with its sister spots Buca Yorkville and Bar Buca. The original locale turns out rustic Italian in the form of house-made pastas and charcuterie, along with excellent pizzas. Bigoli is a popular pasta dish that gives you torchio-cranked duck egg pasta served with duck offal ragu, Venetian spices, mascarpone and basil.
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1. Campagnolo832 Dundas St W, Toronto
2. Terroni720 Queen St W, Toronto
3. Gusto 101101 Portland St., Toronto
4. Pizzeria Libretto221 Ossington Ave, Toronto
5. Enoteca Sociale1288 Dundas Street West, Toronto
6. Pizza e Pazzi1182 St. Clair Ave. W, Toronto
7. Carisma73 King Street East, Toronto
8. Nodo2885 Dundas St, Toronto
9. Buca604 King St. W, Toronto
Combining modern design with traditional Italian cuisine, Campagnolo provides an elegant atmosphere and meals that will make you feel right at home, like house-made spaghetti All’Amatriciana.
Terroni offers delectable, regional Italian dishes that have been made in the same manner for generations, including a myriad of different pizzas that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate.
This energetic spot is located in the King West area and serves dishes inspired by Southern Italian cuisine. The low key atmosphere and classic flavors make it a definite go-to spot. Plus, it's also a micro-winery (!!), and charge $1 an ounce for wine on tap.
Libretto is all about traditions: traditional Neapolitan pizza flavors, traditional ingredients, traditional wood-fired oven. Take a seat in this cozy, authentic Italian restaurant and start with the beef carpaccio or a caprese salad and then pick from a variety of gourmet pizzas like the Libretto Margherita (made with buffalo mozzarella) or the Ontario Prosciutto and Arugula. If you have meat on the brain, sink your teeth into the Nduja pizza, made with nduja sausage and stracciatella cheese. Any way you spin it, you get the satisfaction of the crisp, sweet taste of wood-fired crust with gooey cheese and fresh sauce. Before you waddle home, get the tiramisu … word on the street is it’s pretty darn good.
Located on the edge of the Little Portugal area, this Italian spot is stylish and relaxed. An authentic Italian wine bar, they serve pastas and plenty of small plates.
You'd be hard pressed to find more authentic Neapolitan pizza in Toronto -- this place is baking it in an oven from that was brought in from Naples. And if pizza isn't what you're looking for, they also serve house-made pasta.
It was named one of Toronto's Best First-Date spots, and the romantic interior definitely fits that classification. The menu includes traditional dishes, like gnochhi and veal scaloppine, that pair well with one of their many wine selections.
This casual whitewashed eatery, housed in a former antique shop, features homey Italian fare with a sophisticated twist. Try the house-made gnocchi, pizzas, or the Terra e Bosco (“earth to forest”) platter, an almost-too-pretty-to-eat deconstructed salad of vibrant veggies scattered artfully among dollops of citrusy ricotta cream sauce.
The heart of the Buca restaurant family, this upscale spot serves rustic italian dishes like house-made pastas and charcuterie. It's a little tough to find, but regardless has become well known for its quality.