Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Apr 22, 2009 06:23 AM

Italian restaurant with Italian Speaking Staff

I am attempting Italian language courses to prepare for a pending trip to Italy. I thought it may be fun to go to a couple of different places with my tutor to practice. Any ideas for places open for lunch that may have an italian speaking friendly staff. Other parameters: decent to great food, good fish/seafood options, nice wine, price point not an issue but in the downtown area (no driving) is preferable.

Thank you for any suggestions.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Not sure about lunch places, but I'm always greeted in Italian at la Salumeria (a deli north of Yonge and Davisville), and Il Gelatiere on Mt Pleasant.

    I've also heard a fair amount of Italian spoken by servers and clientele at Trattoria Da Gianni e Maria (not sure if they only serve dinner- their website is currently down), and Il Centro de Formaggio (which has a great tavola calda for lunch) on St. Clair West.

    2 Replies
    1. re: phoenikia

      I'm afraid that their italian only goes as far as greetings. When one starts a conversation, they drop Italian and continue in English.

      1. re: carissima

        I was at Il Gelatiere today, with my friend who speaks fluent Italian, and the lady who works behind the counter spoke at length in Italian with my friend. Once she realized I'm conversational in Italian, the rest of my conversation with her was also in Italian.

        The owner/staff might continue in English if he/she thinks the customer isn't fluent in Italian. But if a Chowhound wants to speak/practice Italian, just answer in Italian and see where it goes.

    2. I would recommend highly Biagio's Ristorante on King near Jarvis. The owner Biagio speaks fluent Italian as does the matre d' who is very friendly. Most of the staff does too. Biagio loves to chat about his many trips to Italian and often imports Italian chefs for special "regional" nights pairing wines and dishes from certain regions of Italy.
      They have fantastic food and wine list although a bit pricier but it sounds like an option for you.
      Also if you go when the weather is better their outdoor patio is fantastic.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ciaociao1

        What dishes does Biagio do best, ciaociao1?

        1. re: phoenikia

          I like that Biagio's keeps it seasonal with specials. Around June he does this zuchini flower appetizer that is to die for!
          My overall favourites are the strozopretti pasta (homemade pasta with homemade sausage), and the ravoli is homemade too. I also enjoy the grilled swordfish, any of the veal options on the menu. For apps my favourite is their fruitti di mare (deep fried calamari and shrimp)...Not greasy at all. Also like their minestrone. Other people have told me their salads are good too.
          I tend to order things I don't make at home (the pastas, calamari, veal etc) I am sure all the stufff is good overall since I have yet to have a bad meal there.
          For dessert I always get the Tulip-phyllo shell filled with a light custard and topped with berries.
          Getting hungry just writing this!!

          1. re: ciaociao1

            I love zucchini flowers- thanks for mentioning that comes up on June.

        1. re: tuttebene

          Yes, Grano does do lunch. And Roberto would probably be very happy to speak to you in Italian.

          1. re: Tatai

            If I'm not mistaken Grano does a special evening devoted to learning italian. Worth giving them a call.

            1. re: millygirl

              Yes they do! There's an 8-week course starting June 22, which may not suit the OP's schedule but shows they would be amenable for "practice".

        2. Fusilli when Giuseppe's in the house. Italian is his and his wife Cora's first language. All other parameters met if not exceeded.

          I hope your studying at the Italian Cultural Institute. Fabs courses.

          531 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M5A1V1, CA