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Jun 27, 2009 02:18 PM

St Clair W restaurants need our help: good meal as usual at Gianni Maria

The slow and bungled and probably unnecessary construction of dedicated trolley lanes is inching forward along St Clair West of Bathurst; but the months of severe traffic disruption and associated sidewalk unpleasantness - with many more to come - are taking a grave toll on the restaurants in the area.

Maria of Gianni Maria (St Clair W @ Arlington) was telling us of her and her colleagues' woes last night during a delicious dinner on their outdoor patio, the highlight of which was Gianni's unsurpassed Ravioli Piemontese. She said the only upside has been a small influx of neighbourhood visitors who, disinclined to take their cars out onto the mess of lanes and construction impedimentia, are venturing out on foot and discovering local eateries rather than going to their downtown haunts.

We found it relatively easy (around 7 pm) to scoot off the westbound track lane where there was a cut, and turn east into the municipal parking lot almost directly opposite GM. Maria also has a few parking spaces behind the restaurant available for clients on a first come first served basis - you can get directions and book your spot at 416-652-3982.

They, and their colleagues in the 'hood, deserve to stay alive - the construction was neither asked for by them nor are they receiving any compensation from the city or province for the prejudice to their livelihoods.

So the next time anyone's thinking of heading out to dinner, keep St Clair W (especially GM) in your thoughts.

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  1. Let's not forget La Bruschetta, fantastic restaurant.
    1317 St Clair Avenue West
    (416) 656-8622

    1. This political situation is unfortunate. A street can be torn up if there is a large apartment back up, like Manhattan with a guaranteed foot traffic.

      St. Clair suffers, just like Spadina, and Queen's Quay, and the fresh food vendors.

      3 Replies
      1. re: jayt90

        We certainly should support the St. Clair West businesses as they are truly having a terrible time! My advice is to try parking on the side streets and while it must be pretty annoying for the Residents on those side streets, EMPTY storefronts are a damn sight worse and lead to the area going downhill (and it is/was a very good street for eating, walking, browsing etc. on a summer's night).
        Jayt90 is correct a lot of those places on Spadina etc closed up never to be seen until the Streets were once again functioning....lots of storeowners lost their businesses...some never came back and it's a sad situation for all.
        As some of you chowhounders know from reading this board I am a big fan of ' Vannis' and they are surviving well but I think it's because it's one of the new kids on the block and there's a lot of 'chat'...other Restaurants on St. Clair really deserve our support at this time as well!

        1. re: pearlD

          I have lived in Chinatown or close by for three decades. I am unaware of any business that closed on Spadina because of the LRT. If anything, Spadina as a shopping street has greatly improved because of the LRT. But then I don't drive a car. There was also negative talk back in the day that the LRT would kill Kensington and that certainly didn't happen.

          1. re: ChalkBoy

            I was not talking about the present time, I do agree that Spadina has greatly improved and that the LRT is a 'good thing' and generally the neighbourhood seems to be prospering BUT and that is a big BUT...I suggest that you seek out those people/storeowners who while the construction was happening simply lost or seriously had their incomes depleted. The same thing is happening on St. Clair at this time...some of those shopkeepers will not be around when the TTC/ City gets its act together and finishes the 'improvement'. The price of progress is sometimes more costly than anyone realises.

      2. Menu looks interesting---esp those sides (might try to make a meal of a few of them). But I don't like menus that exclude prices!

        1. I agree!! I have been trying some new places for lunch with lots of success -- Pho St. Clair and Spicy and Sweet are both great Asian places. Have also discovered Bon Vivant for organic milk and meat products. But it is challenging -- now they are also tearing away the sidewalks in places with no signage for pedestrians - the other day I had my son in a stroller and a bulldozer right next to us (on what was supposed to be the walking area!). So scary. You can park on side streets easily though.

          We did try and show our support for Vannis but were unimpressed. Did try El Rincon recently - -excellent food!

          1. I am a first time Chowhound poster. I often lurk and read posts, looking for nice things in Toronto, where I've lived in the west-end for six years. I am moved to register and post to make clear that notwithstanding the need to support local restos during the construction of the streetcar tracks, GM is really, really overrated.

            I went to Da Gianni and Maria with a friend some weeks back and frankly, had the NASTIEST osso bucco ever. I was actually forced to expel part of one mouthful - chewy, gristly fat that was clearly poorly cooked. I love well done osso bucco with meat that is fall off the bone tender - I love fat that is cooekd right - and risotto is always a treat.

            However, GM was a disaster. The osso bucco meat was super fatty but yet inexplicably not tender - no knife was provided? - the risotto was overcooked to a gruel-like consistency, with naught but carrots (!) and a too-sweet tomato paste as other ingredients.

            My friend's wild mushroom pasta was decent but seriously, I'm not a pro but I can make better homemade pasta than that.

            App of cheese/orange salad was nice but not much cheese for the shockingly high price.

            What a massacre on all fronts. This place is so overrated and not worth the price (quite substantial).

            Honestly - other places on St. Clair deserve your attention - some fantastic places. Not this one, cruising on a TV reputation.

            Finally, I'm a young professional (lawyer, 30), who dresses casually well but might not appear old money. My dining partner is a young academic (PhD candidate, 31). We were 'offered' seats on the patio (place was practically empty, not a super warm night, no tables made up outside) - and could not shake the feeling that this was an ageist move, reminiscent of the kid's table!

            GM? Forget it. They can bail themselves out.

            7 Replies
            1. re: nouseforaname

              Yeah, I am not a fan of GM (had quite gross overpriced overhyped meal there as well) BUT in the spirit of the original post, I would love to see more diners out at St. Clair restos (and yes the deserving ones for sure, of which there are many).

              1. re: nouseforaname

                Just curious--which places on St Clair do you like?

                1. re: Ediblethoughts

                  I quite like El Rincon, The Rushton (my favourite for ambience and cocktails, even though the food can be hit and miss), Ferro for takeout pizza (eating there has never been the most pleasant experience), Pho St. Clair for the white chicken pho, Eastern Twist for paratha wraps, Pain Perdu (ambience, charm and good pain au chocolat), and Marcello's. The places I like have certain dishes I like and others that I don't think are very good at all -- I'd like to find a place that is 100% reliable with good ambience on the St. Clair W. strip. Any recommendations would be most welcome. Of course, there are many places I have yet to try. Disaster meals have been at Vannis, GM, and that Mexican place near Winona on the North side of St. Clair (yuck!).

                  Ediblethoughts which places do you like best?

                  1. re: Arcadiaseeker

                    I like Ferro (or did when I was last there but it's been awhile) for pasta; I used to love Filippos for pasta and salad but the last time we were there it didn't impress so we haven't been back for quite a few months; I've been only once but really enjoyed El Fogon (want to go back some time soon) for good fish/veggie/legume dishes (I can't remember the name of the bean dish we ordered but it was unique to anything I've tried before and very satisfying and the shrimp chowder was tasty as was the fish stew); I enjoyed La Habesha though it's an odd place (we had Ethiopian veg food and spagetti with meat sauce); Marcellos has been good at times though I generally prefer pasta at other places; I've only tried Vanni's once and wasn't impressed overall (I felt like I should have tried the pizza since that is supposedly quite good). I also tried Eastern Twist once and I think I might have had a veg paratha wrap (it was a veg something---not something I'd had anywhere before) but I really hated it. I threw almost all of it away which is pretty unusual for me. Oh, and I loved the cupcakes at the Cupcakery--it's up there in my top 3 cupcake places.

                    I think that sums it up; I do intend to try your El Rincon; it's on my list!

                    1. re: Ediblethoughts

                      Thanks!! Too bad about the Eastern Twist experience. Is La Habesha the Ethiopian place? I have been wanting to try that although the ambience looks kind of unusual and I think you'd have to be in the mood! I will give El Fogon another try -- loved the ceviche and our salad but the mains we ordered were kind of greasy and bland. I think I need to order something else next time. There is a new Indian place called Savera that has replaced the steak place -- have you tried yet? We are thinking of ordering takeout...

                      1. re: Arcadiaseeker

                        Yes, La Habesha is (primarily) Ethiopian. I haven't tried Savera. I'll be interested to hear what you think. I've tried a bunch of new Indian places lately and we tend to only want to do Indian once every several weeks!

                2. re: nouseforaname

                  Nouse, a question and an observation - and I confess to being an unabashed fan of Da Gianni and Maria.

                  Question - I can't argue about your appraisal of the food you were given; but did you draw it to Maria's attention? ask to have fatty tough osso bucco replaced ?

                  Observation - I know that the patio is not "kid's table" or second best - it is a kind offer since many people like dining outdoors in the summer. They would serve you indoors or outdoors equally cheerfully. The last time I went we (three other parties and mine) were all outdoors as it was a pleasant unhumid evening with a nice breeze, Most of the time I stay indoors - and have never seen any differentiation made on dress or "old money" - it's not that sort of place at all !