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The best AUTHENTIC Italian in Toronto?

It's my birthday this week and it seems like forever since I had a real Italian meal. Now here I am talking about the real deal, not lasagne, garlic bread and cheap Chianti. Regional cuisine is even more appealing, perchance a litlle Tuscan joint? Maybe a Sicilian trattoria tucked away somewhere? So tell me, where do I find the good stuff?

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  1. Terroni's by far - http://www.terroni.ca/

    They have 3 locations in Toronto - Queen West, Adelaide and Balmoral. I have been to Queen W and Adelaide locations and both have been amazing. The focus is on Southern Italian Food (Calabrese) and they are truly authentic at that. I took my mom there a few times and it's the only restaurant she will eat at here in Toronto. She is southern Italian and definitely gives it her seal of approval.

    1. Personally I look at Terroni's as fast-food not really a birthday meal - but that may just be my opinion.

      I'd pick one of these places for a special meal:

      Noce - Queen West
      Tutti Matti - Adelaide
      Mistura - Davenport
      Via Allegro – Etobicoke

      9 Replies
      1. re: JennaBean

        JennaBean - Your suggestions are also great but Terroni's is FAR from fast-food. Maybe you should give it another try. In my opinion it's as authentic as it gets. I am sure you have travelled a bit and if you have ever stepped foot into a trattoria in Italy you will find many similarities.

        1. re: cozzetto

          I've been many time (against my will most often) and I just have such a problem with the greater-than-thou mind-set of the whole business. I'm a huge fan of Italian food but I never enjoy my overall experience at Terroni's.

          At the end of the day, the many times I've been there, I've never been blown away by the food. If I had been I may have put up with the approach.

          1. re: JennaBean

            Sorry I missed the most important point - IMO their no sub policy has little to do with the food and much more to do with managing overall food costs and maximizing the number of covers they can do in one night. C'est tout!

            1. re: JennaBean

              All good points and to each there own.

              What are your thoughts on Libretto? I do quite like it and their sausage pizza is amazing.

        2. re: JennaBean

          Second Noce. I like their gnocchi.

          Would also recommend Il Mulino for high-end, traditional Italian, as well as Trattoria da Gianni e Maria. I've often heard Italian spoken by the guests at Trattoria da Gianni e Maria.

          Not that impressed by meals at Terroni. The food can be tasty and the portions are generous, but the food isn't what I would call authentic Italian, even if they don't sprinkle parmesan on their seafood dishes. It's somewhat upscale Canadianized Italian for the masses, if you ask me.

          The pastas at Tutti Matti have been decent in my experience, but the one time I ordered fish, it was inedibly overcooked. Alida Solomon is the chef/owner of Tutti Matti.

          1. re: phoenikia

            Terroni's is far from being Canadianized. As a first generation Canadian and growing up in an Italian home (southern Italian) watching my mom and nonna cook homemade goodness eating some of the dishes served up at Terroni's such as the antipato di funghi, do bring back some memories for me. Italian food is supposed to be simple, rustic, with focus fresh ingredients and natural flavours.

            1. re: cozzetto

              I agree that some Italian food (esp. cucina povera) is "supposed to be simple, rustic, with focus fresh ingredients and natural flavours", but that rule does not apply to all Italian food.

              Food from some cities/regions, such as parts of Emilia Romagna, and Bologna in particular, is not supposed to be simple or rustic, and is far from it.

              The portions at Terroni are large, which for me is an indication of its Canadianization. It would be impossible for most Torontonians to order antipasto, then a pasta off the primi menu, and then a meat off the secondi menu, and eat the amount of food that Terroni would serve.

              1.5-2 cups of pasta a la Terroni (or Grazie, or Marcello's) is not a standard portion size (per person) in most Italian restaurants in Italy, in my experience. I wouldn't be surprised if a 1.5 -2 cup serving is how much pasta is often served in Italian Canadian homes, due to the Canadianization of portion sizes and style of eating, including more complex carbs in relation to vegetables and meat/cheese,etc.. Even Sicilian grandmothers born and raised in Sicily become Canadianized after living here for a while.

              Zucca, Noce, Trattoria da Gianni e Maria, Il Mulino and Tutti Matti serve portion sizes that are more consistent with the Italian restaurants I've visited in Italy.

          2. re: JennaBean

            Terroni has 3 locations and each seem to be different so maybe dissenting opinions are due to experiences from different locations. I was disappointed the last time at the Queen West location but not the Adelaide location. I do understand JennaBean's point that their food tend to be for the masses and prefabricated (don't allow subs) sometimes not unlike the chain restaurants.

            For authentic, try Il Mulino (Forrest Hills) or Romagna Mia (St. Lawrence Mkt). The former is an elegant smallish family run restaurant and the latter is a rather large not very elegant restaurant serving pretty good Emilia-Romagna style Italian cuisine. For Southern Italy, try Fieramosca Trattoria (Yorkville) though I think their food has declined a bit lately, or Sorrento (Yonge/Lawrence) which recently opened and we went once and it was not bad.

            1. re: syoung

              I would hardly say that the food is either prefabricated or for the masses. The fact that they don't allow substitutions doesn't mean things are premade. Everything is made fresh to order. I've said this before... I'm not sure why people confuse a perhaps foolish policy with the quality and value of the food. I think they are two completely different things altogether.

          3. How about Zucca? The menu partakes of different regions of Italy, so for example you could have a Tuscan app followed by a Sicilian main with perhaps a dessert from Piemonte. Even though different Italian regions are represented on the menu, the food is true to the spirit of each region, and Chef Andrew Milne-Allan frequents the farmers' markets (I've seen him at Riverdale on many occasions). I've enjoyed the food there and you can't go wrong in my opinion.

            1. Heh heh, Andrew Milne - Allen? Wouldn't that be a little like ordering Ma Po Dofu from Umar Hussein? Not to be racist or anything...
              I could care less about fancy surroundings. A great evening for me is defined by incredible food. Terroni's sounds like just my cup of grappa. Thanks for the suggestions!

              11 Replies
              1. re: munchieHK

                Don't be so quick to dismiss Zucca. Check the websites and compare the menus.

                1. re: Snarf

                  How right you are, Sir. That certainly is an intriguing menu. I just wonder if you can do justice to such a range of styles. I might be tempted to give it a shot...

                  1. re: munchieHK

                    Just read one of your other posts. You might appreciate the fact that Mr. Milne-Allan is also a Kiwi.

                    1. re: munchieHK

                      munchieHK, if you're seeking traditional Italian cuisine then Zucca isn't it. I refer to it as New World Italian as it incorporates local, seasonal wares rather than strictly Italian ingredients. This is a bold choice made by chef and has great rewards. It would be a shame if you missed it in favour of the balderdash that passes as "authentic" in this city. One rule at Zucca: Don't go on a Sunday.

                      If you're looking for true Sicilian cuisine in a little tucked away spot then get on down to Fusilli at Queen & River. Chef/owner Giuseppe is the soul of Sicily. Fabulous thin crust, stone over pizzas. I'll say it again. It's amongst the best crusts I've tasted in Toronto. Also great is the Fusilli Salmone, Spaghetti Pescatore, and the mussels. My rule with Fusilli: Always make sure Giuseppe is in before going.

                      531 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M5A1V1, CA

                      2150 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 2A8, CA

                      1. re: Googs

                        Googs, I have noticed your posts about Zucca. You seem completely confused about what kind of food it is. Is it Northern? Southern? Authentic?

                        Italian food should always be based on fresh local produce. Wether in Rome, Sicily, Alba or Toronto. That should be part of what makes it Authentic. New world Italian is lasagna and caesar salad and "Fusilli Salmone". Andrew M-A's menu is as authentic Italian as it gets.

                        And I have been on a Sunday and it was excellent. And it was packed with happy eaters. Why shouldn't I return on a Sunday?

                        1. re: KJeats

                          'Authentic' is a bit tricky.

                          I was in Italy and had some fish with potato puree that had ginger in it. That was considered to be somewhat daring. Is that authentic Italian cuisine? It was made by an Italian chef, in an Italian seafood restaurant, and enjoyed by tables of Italians. If a chef in Toronto serves mashed potatoes infused with fresh ginger as a starch under a piece of fish, would it be considered inauthentic and too fusion?

                          1. re: KJeats

                            I'm sorry, KJeats, but what part confuses you? I feel I've been clear. Let me know what I can do to clear this up for you. You're new so I don't mind taking the time.

                            1. re: SMOG

                              I've had poor experiences on a Sunday and note other CH'ers have as well. I don't think any place, no matter how good, can put out the same level of performance 7 days out of 7. The 'A' chef can't be there every night.

                        1. re: munchieHK

                          Trust me, Andrew Milne-Allen is one of if not the best Italian Chefs in Toronto! As far as homemade pasta, he is definately THE BEST.

                          1. re: Crispier Crouton

                            must agree with you on this one. Grano is amazing. Great bread!

                            1. re: cozzetto

                              And divine white chocolate raspberry tart. Haven't been in a while, but hope they still have it.

                              1. re: cozzetto

                                Once, after we finished dinner there, we were standing on the sidewalk in front of their store just chatting before we parted ways. It was the end of the night and Grano was just closing up. Suddenly, a lady (I think she was the owner) came out and handed us four bags, each with a leftover pizza. We were really surprised by their generosity! Took those home, heated them up for lunch the next day. I don't know what they put in those pizzas, but the crust was insanely rich and delicious, probably one of the best pizzas I've ever had.

                                1. re: cozzetto

                                  The last time we went to Grano was a couple of years ago and their pasta was cold and tasteless and service was no better. Haven't been back since. And they have some of the most uncomfortable chairs of any restaurant I've ever been to.

                              2. With only two short trips to Italy, I'm not sure I am in the best position to judge authenticity. I do like Terroni, particularly the antipasto of oyster mushrooms and parmesan over arugula and the pizzas. I also really like Noce, though it has been a while since I last went. Via Allegro is a total hoot, but there's a kind of show-offy style to the cooking that doesn't fit with what I saw in Italy.

                                Coppi is another I'd add to the list. The risottos are wonderful, particularly the one with porcini. And the whole fish baked in salt is fabulous.

                                Still haven't tried Mistura yet.

                                1. I will add a vote for Terroni. Regardless of their policies and people's views on service (which I don't agree with and are not the point of this post - there are other posts to debate that), their food is quite authentic. For pizza, however, Terroni is certainly second to Pizzeria Libretto, nonetheless quite good.

                                  But it depends what you want. Terroni is on the rustic side, rather than fine dining. Looking for a trattoria or ristorante?

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: SMOG

                                    Second Pizzeria Libretto if you're looking for good quality pizza.

                                    1. re: JennaBean

                                      Libretto is far better than Terroni, not just on Pizza's. Bruschetta's are to die for and their charcuterie and cheeses are far higher quality.

                                      1. re: gastronom

                                        Yep, agree with all the comments above. However, note that Libretto doesn't take reservations and can have wait times well over one hour. They also don't have pasta on their menu.

                                        1. re: SMOG

                                          Agree with SMOG that not accepting reservations and having to line up is a show stopper for me, especially for special occasions such as a bday in this case. I went once and they do have unique pizzas that are thin crust baked at high temperatures to a crisp but I didn't think it was good enough to line up for. But then I'm not a pizza aficionado, so others may know better.

                                          1. re: syoung

                                            I've been five times on various nights of the week and at different times and never waited more than 15-20 minutes for a table and not having to wait at all on a couple of occasions. Also, they will take your cell number and call you when a table is ready which gives you an opportunity to have a few drinks at one of the many bars in the area.

                                            I'm willing to bet that if Libretto was in New York having to sit in a bar in a cool neighbourhood waiting for a phone call to get a table because of line ups would be considered part of it's charm and people would complain about how Toronto has nothing like it.

                                            1. re: jamesm

                                              That's a great point and something I really like about it (and other spots on the Ossington strip). I really don't mind the wait, since you're not waiting in a lineup. One hour? No problem, that's two beers or two tequilas at Reposado. An hour and a half? I'll show up for dinner even happier! If in the mood for great pizza, it's certainly worth the wait. And go with that in mind and make the best of the long wait!

                                  2. If you are ok with Northern Italian fare, my go-to place is Romagna Mia. I know it has gotten a lot of bad reviews for service but I haven't seen a lot of the old waiters there recently, and they have a new manager who seems very friendly (I forgot his name).

                                    They make their salumi themselves and their pastas (strozzapreti and ravioli especially) are delightful. Their risottos are not to be missed in my opinion. Not really crazy about their meat and fish dishes, but definitely 100% recommend the apps and first courses.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: icey

                                      Noce and Sapori are my two personal faves.

                                      1. re: icey

                                        Yeah, service at Romagna Mia sucked for me because the maître d' was a jerk. If he was the manager who was replaced, then that will go a long way to improving their bad service reputation, IMHO.

                                      2. Well I recently tried Osteria Ciceri e Tria (same owners as Terroni which I never go to anymore because the service drives me craaazy) and enjoyed my meal. Did the 5 Antipasti & Primo for $23 with a bottle of wine (the Grignolino D'Asti - Stella was very nice & heavier than a typical Rosato). For the 5 Antipasti you get small servings of each of whatever is on the menu that day and the Primo I went with was Gnocchi with Ricotta Insalata, Cherry Tomatoes & Eggplant. I had Dessert but it put me over the edge and frankly, wasn't that good. I would stick with the savoury next time.


                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: always_eating

                                          I definitely have to agree, I have eaten at Osteria Ciceri e Tria 4 or 5 times in the last 6 months and have not been disappointed with any of my meals. This is authentic as Italian get in Toronto.

                                        2. I can't believe this is still a subject of debate. Yes this is my first posting, but I am a longtime lurker and feel very strongly about this.

                                          Zucca Trattoria is hands down the best Authentic Italian Restaurant in Toronto. I admit to being a regular customer there, and I probably have a biased opinion, but I also eat at a lot of other restaurants and Zucca is consistently my favorite meal of the month.

                                          I first went to Zucca on the reccomendation of Massimo Capra from Mistura who told me several years ago that Andrew Milne-Allan was his favorite Italian chef in Toronto. His approach to Italian cuisine based on regional recipes using local and seasonal produce is very simple and sincere. I often find there are too many things I want to order. I LOVE the pasta there and I LOVE all the fresh seafood there.

                                          If you want fancy Italian go to Mistura of Via Allegro. If you want great AUTHENTIC Italian food with warm, friendly, professional service - go to Zucca.

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: KJeats

                                            On the strength of the recommendations here, iI tried Zucca. Can't really see what all the fuss is about. Frankly, the food was rather tasteless, and nothing spectacula - the pasta included. The service, well, that was disturbingly familiar. Too chummy for my liking. I had expected something more nuanced.

                                            1. re: KJeats

                                              You are right on!
                                              My only go to for Italian in Toronto.
                                              Libretto for Pizza and a change of pace.

                                              1. re: KJeats

                                                Anxious to try Zucca now. I noticed they have a $25 prix fix on Sun-Tues (Salad + any pasta + dessert). Sounds like a fantastic deal. Is it the same quality and portion size as you would get otherwise?

                                                1. re: SMOG

                                                  Yes. And when they do the various 'licious events, they don't overbook or push tables through.

                                                  1. re: Snarf

                                                    Agreed. I've accidentally shown up on a 'licious evening or two and never felt they were just turning tables and profit.

                                                    1. re: Googs

                                                      Googs, but you say above that you've had bad service on Sundays. So if I'm deciding whether to go to Zucca on a Sunday or not at all, would you say Sunday wouldn't be worth the experience? Appreciate your thoughts.

                                                      1. re: SMOG

                                                        I ate a Zucca on a Sunday, and didn't feel like it was all people rave about. The waiter was just OK, and I am sure that they had the b-team in the kitchen that night.

                                                        1. re: foodyDudey

                                                          If I had to choose between Sunday and not-at-all, I'd go with the latter. Did you want to hear Jimi Hendrix strutting his stuff or his guitar tech tuning up?

                                              2. I'm going to add another vote for Zucca. I've been to Terroni, Mistura, Big Ragu and several other small forgettable trattorias and Zucca stands out above the rest.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: ctl98

                                                  Went to Terroni last week at Adelaide. Not impressed at all. Service was great but disappointed in the food. We ordered the spaghetti al limone, the seafood fettucine, lemon veal, pizza and various other pasta dishes.
                                                  The spaghetti limone was so salty, my kids did not want to finish. We found everything to be overly salty. Did not expect portions to be huge but very little ingredients in the pasta.

                                                  The most enjoyable part of the meal was actually the tiramisu and the cappucino.

                                                2. I haven't been, but Marinella on College Street (former Cucina location) at Grace is apparently quite good.


                                                  1. Mercatto on Toronto Street. Nice room, casual yet elegant. Food seems more flavourful and interesting than Terroni. Don't know if it's more authentic, but does have a rustic/northern feel. Nicer server experience too.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: dxsnyder

                                                      I've eaten at Mercatto many times, but only on the one on Bay. I will agree that the food and service is always wonderful. I really enjoy it there. And it's very similar to Terroni in terms of food style and menu. However, I will have to disagree with respect to the comparison, as I always find Terroni just a bit better in terms of flavour. That extra bit goes a long way for me. Having said that, I wouldn't be terribly disappointed if I had to dine at Mercatto instead of Terroni.

                                                    2. Well thanks for all the recommendations, people. I never realised it would be such a popular and polarising subject! For the record. I landed in Zucca in the end with a group of friends and family. My review? Mixed, I think. Did not care too much for the service. As has been mentioned, I found it overly familiar. The maitre d' was quite pushy when some of my party were delayed. I think he was upset they would not make two covers from the table that night. When everyone had arrived, he slickly launched into his polished spiel, but it all rang a bit hollow. The waitress was lovely and helpful, however.
                                                      As for the food, well considering the rave reviews and the price, I just expected more I suppose. There was a truly excellent grilled octopus salad but a distinctly bland beet and barley salad alongside. My friend swore by the soup and I loved the little chickpea flour herb cake served as an amuse bouche...I could have made a meal of that.
                                                      The mains were a mixed bag. There were couple of orders for the night's special, a roasted, stuffed Guinea fowl, which sounded great but I found the execution less than perfect. The portions were miniscule and although I am not a 'Canadian portions' guy, I am also not a Nouvelle Cuisine guy and these were ridiculously small. The hen was tasty enough, but a tad overcooked and served on pureed celery potatoes which I found very odd. Maybe it's a new trend in Italy, but I certainly hope it is a short lived one. It reminded me of my grandmother's potatoes (no recommendation) with added celery. Watery and uninspired was my feeling. It was just too fey for my liking.
                                                      Others at the table went for a seafood pasta, which I tried and found to be quite good but again not worthy of rave reviews. I think the best choice was the grilled fish, simple and fresh and very well done indeed.
                                                      The desserts were excellent, although my accompanying espresso seemed to have mysteriously evaporated on the way to the table. There was maybe a cm in the cup. My daughter swears her creme caramel was to die for and my espresso chocolate cake was superb.
                                                      All in all a mixed bag, I would say. I would love to wholeheartedly support my fellow Kiwi, but In good conscience I just can't. I felt there were serious weaknesses in the execution of the dishes and the value was simply not there, given the price point. The dishes that were good were indeed very good, but I would stop short of 'great'. The octopus salad came closest. Lose the head waiter, lose the fussiness and inject some passion and robustness into the food is my thought. Authentic Italian food is a feast for the all the senses. This was just too reserved and overly refined. Just a litlle too, dare I say it, Kiwi. I am going to try a couple of the other recommendations in search to the true Italian trattoria experience.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: munchieHK

                                                        The 'head waiter' in question is Blair...unfortunately also the new owner as of a few years ago. Anyone remember Luis? He was one of the best . The place just hasn't been the same since the change in ownership...but I will always back Andrew Milne-Allen as being one of the best Italian chefs in Toronto.

                                                      2. what about L'unita? I have had a few wonderful meals there. Great food, great ambiance!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Baelsette

                                                          And Via Allegro is nice for a special occasion. It's stuck in a strip mall across from Sherway mall and the decor is a little dated for urbanites, but food, mostly northern Italian, is top notch.

                                                        2. Romagna Mia. Enough said. It's fantastic, and the owner's from Italy. Everything is fresh, and their risotto won an award a few years ago. It's a must try.

                                                          Romagna Mia
                                                          106 Front Street East, Toronto, ON M5A 1E1, CA

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: carbqueen8

                                                            I absolutely agree! We LOVE Romagna Mia! The food is great and we have always had very friendly and prompt service.

                                                            Romagna Mia
                                                            106 Front Street East, Toronto, ON M5A 1E1, CA

                                                          2. Has anyone tried Cinque Centa? They have a once monthly Italian Mothers Dinner, where genuine Italian moms cook a set meal as they would for their families.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: merlot143

                                                              I've been to Cinqucentro for the monthly dinner once and also once on a regular night. Can't remember anything about the regular night, I think the food was average. The monthly dinner was fun though, there's a lot of variety in the food and because there's so much, you can pack up leftovers. From what I remember, I don't think anything we ate blew us away, but what we had was quite nice.

                                                            2. I know this thread is very old, but any new recommendations on authentic Italian? I just came back from Italy and I'm looking for some good ol' traditional Roman dishes. And what are people's thoughts on Grazie?

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: Sannie_2

                                                                Grazie is a good place to fill up if you're near Yonge & Eglinton, but it serves standard Canadianized Italian food, rather than "good ol'traditional Roman dishes". Which specific Roman dishes are you looking for?

                                                                Campagnolo on Dundas W offers a few Roman dishes from time to time.

                                                                There are some other good Italian options located within a 10 minute walk of Grazie, on Yonge, just a few blocks south of Eglinton. Falasca SPQR serves Roman-style pizza,square pieces by weight at lunch, round pizzas at dinner. Across from Falasca SPQR is Simply Italian, my favourite gelato shop in the city. The chef at Zucca on Yonge serves some regional dishes that are closer to traditional Italian than the food at Grazie. I like the eggplant parmigiana at Five Doors North. Grano also serves relatively traditional Italian food that I prefer to Grazie's food. I like brunch at Lil Baci, but haven't tried anything on the dinner menu yet. For Italian deli and groceries, check out La Salumeria.

                                                                1. re: prima

                                                                  I frequent Grazie, Zucca and Lil Baci. My fave has to be Zucca, reminds me of the food I had everyday in Rome last summer.
                                                                  Gonna make it to Falasca and Simply Italian next week.
                                                                  Bought some great cheese from La Salumeria last month.
                                                                  Gonna try Grano and Five Doors North soon.
                                                                  Least favorite is probably La Vecchia (?).

                                                                  1. re: prima

                                                                    I used to think Grazie was very 'authentic', but upon review of their menu after my recent trip to Italy, I realized it is very Canadianized indeed. I like the quality of the pasta, but the dishes themselves are not traditional at all.

                                                                    Thanks for the suggestions of Falasca SPQR, Simply Italian and Zucca. I'll have to try those sometime. Campagnolo is good.

                                                                    I was looking specifically for spaghetti/bucatini all'amatricana and perhaps carciofi? Enoteca Sociale has an all'amatricana, but it has chili, which isn't traditional, but I'll have to try it out anyway. ES also has cacio e pepe, so perhaps I'll have to give that a go.

                                                                    1. re: Sannie_2

                                                                      I like the pastas at Enoteca Sociale a lot. The pastas at L'Unita are pretty good, too, but I don't see an amatriciana option offered right now.

                                                                      Campagnolo has it on the current menu: http://campagnolotoronto.com/menus/
                                                                      and here is the Chef's recipe! http://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine...

                                                                      California artichokes are in season right now, so you might be in luck. Has anyone seen seasonal artichoke dishes at any Italian restaurants around town lately?

                                                                      1. re: prima

                                                                        Thanks, Prima! I will have to give the recipe a shot!