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Lil' Baci - Leslieville

An earlier thread referred to the new spot under construction next door to Kubo Radio. It’s LIL’ BACI and it opened last Sunday although it was closed for a couple of days early this week while they got the air conditioning got straightened out.

A posting on the Naples Craigslist ( http://naples.craigslist.org/fbh/3762... ) positions the place as a “New authentic Southern Italian restaurant… [using] …the finest ingredients money can buy.” You have to give them points for recruiting pizzaolos from the centre of the universe although there weren’t a lot of Southern Italians in the kitchen when I was there.

They offer about eight pies. Six or so antipasti. Four or five contorni. I didn’t have enough to eat during first brief visit to confidently judge the food especially since they have only been open a couple of days. What I did have was better than you’d find in similarly positioned Toronto places but a little below the average neighborhood place in Rome or Naples which probably makes it pretty good. Fairly high price point for this kind of food: 75-100$ range for two with wine but without tax or tip.

The place certainly has potential. A real effort to understand the origin of the foods they are offering. Palpable passion on the part of the servers, at least the couple I spoke with. And a wine list with an impressive range of only Italian bottles, almost all of which were under 40$.

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    1. re: childofthestorm

      Its gas from what I can see, although a more sophisticated unit than most. They seem to have thin crust technique right but their real strength is the quality of the ingredients.

    2. I went this evening and throughly enjoyed it. A genuinely solid attempt at the "neighbourhood Italian" with (as mentioned above) very good and fresh ingredients in great combinations. Highlights were the daily antipasti (eg, roasted brussels sprouts w/horseradish, beluga lentils). I also spotted the Berkel slicer in the kitchen, so I had to try the charcuterie: all very good.

      My pasta dish was delightful w/coppa, dandelion greens, and pine nuts. Very simply prepared but beautifully cooked. My wife's pizza was tasty, with a thin crispy crust and fresh toppings. I especially liked the fresh pepperoncini in oil offered to pep up the pie.

      We passed on dessert and only I had a couple glasses of Nero. Bill came to $69. I was particularly impressed by the chef (owner?) who came out to talk to the patrons, asking us if we'd enjoyed our meals and thanking us for our business. Servers were also very pleasant - always ready to offer a suggestion, but never in the way. And all in an unpretentious setting. The ploy seems to be working as the last table was taken right as we left.

      Great to have such an addition to the hood. We'll definitely be back!

        1. re: hungryabbey

          I was there last week, and recommend it. Food and service were both very good. Prices are reasonable; I think pizzas and pastas are in $12-$15 range. Meal for 2 was approximately $90 with taxes, tip and a bottle of wine. Will definitely return, hopefully soon.

          1. re: DRD

            Went to Lil Baci last night for dinner. We had tried last Friday but the place was packed and it was incredibly hot (apparently they are trying to work out the air conditioning). Not sure if the problem was resolved or if it was pleasant because it was a much cooler night.

            We both had pizza, which range in price from $9.95 to $14.95. We also had a half litre of Chianti and the bill without tip came to just under $60. The pizza was fresh and light and a substantial size.

            The servers were all friendly and helped each other out. It is nice to see a staff that actually looks like they enjoy where they work. The crowd was a mix of young professionals after work, on dates, families, - it was a nice relaxed vibe.

            Will be back regularly I am sure.

            1. re: professor plum

              Have to echo your review, went last weekend and had a very nice meal there... aside from a cranky baby of course. Pizzas were nice and thought the antipasto platter was excellent. We will definitely return.

              1. re: Vise

                I agreed that this place has potential. The food are well priced and reasanable. But my pizzzzzza that night was way too salty. I had the mushroom/fungus pizza.

                It was also quite delightful to see a family with kids, all by the window table of about 8 going about their meal in queen st east/south riverdale/leslieville.

        2. We went this past Saturday evening for my mom's 50th birthday. I tried to make a reservation for 6, but they told me they only made reservations for parties of 8 or more. Luckily, when we arrived around 7:30, there was a perfect table to fit us, although I think if we went any later we would have been in for a long wait.

          The place has a nice vibe, and is slightly loud from all the people chatting and having a good time, except this one young kid (maybe 5?) who was crying and told his mom "I hate this place!!" and wailing away which made us all giggle.

          We started with a selection of 5 antipasti, including calamari, roasted red peppers, citrus marinated olives, chick peas with tuna, and something else that I can't remember. :) There were I think 7 or 8 selections in total, and included a parsely root dish which I have never heard of before.

          For mains, 3 people got pizzas, two got a braised lamb shank dish, and one got a chicken dish. Everyone was happy with their selections except myself, but I chock it up to bad ordering on my part. I got a pizza special called "Stagione", and somehow failed to realize it was a white pizza, which I don't like. To me it seemed like I was eating a big piece of plain bread with 4 olives, 4 pieces of bresoala and some mushrooms. :) I tried the lamb, which was in a roast tomato sauce - very tender, and very simple in terms of spicing.

          Best of all was the service. I'm a huge Terroni fan (the edge on pizza's is still in Terroni's favor in my opinion - oh, and hot peppers), but I feel you're often rushed in and out of there. At Lil' Baci, our server (Doug? Donald? Can't remember.) did a fantastic job, paced the meal well, and was extremely professional. During the meal one of those people that sells roses (so anoying, lol) wandered in and amongst the tables, and at the end of the meal our server had bought one and gave it to my mom because he said he overheard it was her birthday. Cute.

          Prices are very reasonable. Antipasti selection, 6 mains, 1 bottle of wine, 2 beers, 2 soft drinks, 6 coffees of varying types and 1 dessert (I know - waiters hate that, but we were full), came to $236 before tip.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Tara9000

            Loved my night there as well...very fun dining experience and good quality food.

          2. The honey and I impulsively had dinner at Lil' Baci last night and really enjoyed it. Honey had the lamb shank and I had the mussels, and we shared the antipasto plate to start. The lamb was braised in tomato sauce and was very tender; the mussels were steamed in tomato sauce and topped with shaved fennel and so had lots of different flavours and textures that all worked together--excellent. The wine that one of the servers recommended--a primitivo I think--went well with the lamb and the mussels.
            I loved that there were families with babies and young kids (and one butterfly fairy) as well as ladies on a night out and hepsters just hanging (and then there was the honey and me--none of the above demographic). We sat by the kitchen and had a chance to chat with the chef, which is always a treat, and the service was great (well, except from our assigned server. He was a bit of a doof, but maybe he was having an off night). Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was about $160, and we're definitely going back to try some of those excellent looking pizzas.

            1. I had dinner for the first time at Lil' Baci last night, and while it will be a spot I could see myself dropping into on occasion, it certainly won't be a regular haunt.

              We started with some cold antipasti and meat, all quite delicious, although I think I would have preferred to have a few warm antipasti options as it was a chilly night. We wanted to try a few things after that, and so ordered a pizza and pasta as primi, and the lamb shanks as secondi.

              Well, they brought all the food at once. Perhaps I should have made it clear that we wanted the primi first and the secondi second, but this seems like a no-brainer in a supposedly Italian restaurant. The service was spotty most of the night, from the ignored pleas to fix our wobbly table, to pouring a new bottle of wine into my glass that contained my previous wine, to the aforementioned primi-secondi disaster. The servers are all very good-looking and thin and wan and look like they don't eat food, which I guess wins style points, if nothing else.

              The pizza was good but not great, certainly didn't surpass Terroni for me. We had the buffala mozzarella pizza, and while the crust and sauce was delicious, the mozzarella was doled out in very skimpy portions and overcooked, losing its appeal. Considering this was the most expensive pizza on the menu, I was expecting more.

              The pasta was decent but nothing special, and I was a little surprised to see it was a sausage dish when the menu described it simply as a "ragu" - could have used a less vague description, oh well. The lamb shanks were ultra-bland and a little dried out, and we barely touched them. I brought them home and am planning to shred the meat, sauce and spice it up, and make panini out of them Hopefully that will turn out well.

              The wine list is quite well-chosen, and there are some very good reasonably-priced options there. So final verdict is that I will pop in to Lil' Baci for a pizza and a glass of wine, but only if Terroni is not an option. If I want a multi-course Italian meal within walking distance, I think Gio's remains my first choice - despite its flaws such as its menu encased in amber like a prehistoric insect, Gio's is always good value and one can expect impeccable service that knows what "primi" and "secondi" mean.

              1. as i posted on another thread, i went there once and won't be going back...the pizza i ordered was paper...PAPER...thin and yet still managed to be greasy enough to slide around the plate so much that i had to revert to eating with my hands...not impressed

                1 Reply
                1. re: loftman

                  Wow. seems like yours is quite an isolated incident. We went there and quite enjoyed our meal. Would gladly go there again and again!

                2. I was there a couple of Friday evenings ago, and had a decent meal of 3 antipasti and 2 pizzas. Main complaints are that they substituted our requested seafood antipasto with mushrooms (which consisted mostly of roasted garlic) without asking us. Pizza crusts were not greasy, but rather were so white and floury as to be lacklustre. Their "Lil' Baci" pizza was topped with only 5 small meatballs. Ridiculous! Only the funghi pizza with truffle oil was passable in terms of topping to crust ratio. I won't be going back. The place was so loud that we couldn't hear our own conversation, but overall it does have a friendly vibe. Unfortunately our table was positioned in front of the washroom corridor so we kept getting bumped by anyone who wanted to visit the loo.

                  If you want better pizza and pastas, visit Baldini nearby.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Food Tourist

                    Baldini is a nice spot, and deserves more business than it gets. Shame about the decor and the white board with specials out front, they need to work on the image they present cuz the food is very good indeed.