The Charms of Buca

602 King Street West
Dinner for two with all taxes, tip and wine: $150

The recession might have played a role, but Toronto seems especially caught up in the idea of rustic food. We’re uninterested in molecular gastronomy and sundaes sprinkled with gold leaf; we crave real authentic food like (someone’s) Mama used to make.

In the world of Italian food, the leader of this pack has long been Terroni, where Cosimo Mammoliti built his business on food so authentic he wouldn’t allow changes or substitutions. When Pizza Libretto opened last year, some thought (and still do) that the pizza there was better (I’m still trying to get over the soggy centres on the two pizzas I had there) but both now have some serious competition from Buca.

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Stop Walking Past and Come on In

1185 King Street West
Dinner for two with all taxes, tip, wine and coffee: $110

I’ve walked past Caffino a hundred times – literally – without ever going in. When I worked in Liberty Village I would consider grabbing my morning coffee from there, but the Roastery was closer to work and on cold winter mornings, travel time really did count.

Even living 5 minutes away wasn’t compelling enough, especially when hot new places started popping up nearby. Their website didn’t help – the menu page never worked at all and the only thing I could find was a list of celebrities who had eaten there, which is more of a reason to stay away than make a beeline for the place in my book. (Their current website is no better –  it’s just a splash page with a note about it re-launching in December ’08.)

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Bewildered by Bocca on Baldwin


boccacrostiniBocca on Baldwin
26 Baldwin Street
Dinner for two with all taxes, tip and wine/beer (no dessert): $65

The great thing about Baldwin Village is that you have your pick of cuisines. It’s a fun treat to stand on the corner and pick a country, and by extension, a restaurant, or vice versa. Recently we wandered into the neighbourhood with some friends we were treating to dinner and stood in front of each place trying to decide. We opted for Bocca on Baldwin, mostly because none of us had been there before.

I was familiar with the space in its previous life, the fun but somewhat rundown Dessert Sensations Café. The building has since been completely gutted and renovated and is now an airy space full of gleaming wood and light.

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