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Nov 5, 2010 05:39 PM

The arrogance of the owner at Local Kitchen and Wine Bar Queen West

I have eaten at Local Kitchen and Wine Bar Several times. Tonight was busy. Over all we have found the food to be good although perhaps a tad expensive for a restaurant that does not take reservations and has a bistro type atmosphere. For one of our tapas dishes we ordered a pasta special that was Tortillini with butternut squash goat cheese and apples. It was $19 for 3 small pieces. We mentioned this to the waiter/owner who told us(in a snotty tone) it was made with all kinds of love and that if we didn't want it ...fine. He took the plate and stomped off. Outrageous. A couple beside us ordered this dish as well and said the same thing. Good but extremely over priced for the portion size. That was the end of our dinner experience. We were not offerd coffee or dessert just the full $135.00 bill. We were totally ignored. They are trendy right now and it has made them cocky.
We ate at Cowbell(a block away) last weekend where the food was amazing, portions were appropriate and the services was what one would expect when paying $150 for dinner for 2 people. By the way we had coffee and dessert. Cowbell was moderately busy and they take reservations.
It is a shame when a place has "the buzz" and customer service flys out the window....from the owner less. You may want to think twice before heading out to Local. I won't be back.

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  1. You literally received 3 tortellini? And the chef was also waiting tables? Because unless I'm mistaken he's the owner.

    6 Replies
    1. re: jamesm

      Just to clarify - there are 2 co-owners. Fabio and Mike are long time friends and co-own both The Local and Bar Salumi. Fabio is the chef and Mike runs the front of the house. The are also both known to serve tables.
      It's unfortunate to hear of the snippy service and diminishing value of their food. Admittedly, I have eaten their many times and have thought the food a bit hit and miss however, I've always been so happy with the service and warmth that come from the owners and staff. To be honest, it is the main reason I keep returning.
      Didn't they just get on some list declaring them 3rd out of all the restaurants reviewed in Ontario?
      I suspect that they may be feeling the pressure of the spotlight and the demands that come with it.

      1. re: jamesm

        There are two co-owners, the chef who's name is Fab Bondi and the front of house guy Michael Sanregorio. He's a piece of work, last year he did a media interview where he said among other things that the reason for the no res policy was to keep "old people" out of his restaurant.

        1. re: bytepusher

          He really said that?! Wow!!! I'm not young so I better stay away!
          So far, nastiest/rudest remark was from a waiter at 'Magic Wok' who responded to a question ' what's good in seafood tonight' by answereing ' Its in the menu - CAN'T YOU READ'??!!

          1. re: Charles Yu

            Ă…bout Magic Wok, I posted a bad service experience there about a year ago. We haven't been back. We used to go almost a couple of times a month as it was our Chinese go to resto. Now we go to Fantasy Eatery (off Midland in a plaza along Silverstar Blvd.). Service is not the friendliest, but it's efficient and not rude. We were there tonight and everything was good. I thought not going back to Magic Wok would make me miss their deep fried squid with chili pepper, but Fantasy has just as good a version. I really enjoyed their green beans with tiny salted fish.

            1. re: scarberian

              I have also posted here re; Magic Wok.
              We also went a couple of times a Month,mainly for their Fish Maw Soup, and the fact that they were the only Restaurant that often served Whole live Pickerel.
              One day we were handed a Menu,and when we asked about the Fishes available, were told that "everything is on the menu".
              We asked about Pickerel,she repeated the same "everything is on the menu"
              We sat for at least 15 min. and were not approached again.
              Stood up and left.
              Would never return.

              1. re: scarberian

                Went to Fantasy at their Scarborough location a month ago. Used to be our favourite 'wok-hay' place. However, food was sooooo bad that evening, we suspect the chef ( responsible for the 'rose essence soya free range chicken recipe ) has left. Will not return until we get confirmation food has turned around! Very rare to find ALL 5 dishes ordered to be TOTALLT UNACCEPTABLE!!!

        2. Thank you for the heads up on this. We've heard similar stuff from friends that went and thought they were being over critical. They questioned a small portion and got eye roll and then ignored. Also I'm so sick of seeing goat cheese on the menu and am clock watching this trend to die out. Unless it's really stellar goat cheese it usually ruins a dish for me.

          3 Replies
          1. re: abigllama

            There was a lot of goat cheese in their dishes. Funny you should mention it.
            I still can't believe how rude the co-owner was. He didn't even offer us another item to replace the pasta. My husband came home and made a sandwich!
            Luckily we live in Toronto and there are lots of great places to eat!

            1. re: abigllama

              +1 on the goat cheese.

              IMO it's a huge red flag when you see a menu full of goat cheese. One gets the feeling that the recipes came out of a Chatelaine magazine

              1. re: William Taft

                OMG, now that you mention it, that is so true William. Too funny!!!!

            2. for the record i am a regular-at least once every 2 weeks-sometime more often-my loyalty is on my sleeve.

              i didn't understand by your comment what one has to do with the other (we have found the food to be good although perhaps a tad expensive for a restaurant that does not take reservation).

              last sunday we were there and ordered the 4 specials without even looking at the menu-we ordered a 2nd of one of them because it was so good. i didn't worry about the extra $19 because it was worth it. if the quality is there, they use locally sourced and high quality ingredients, have only 29 seats, pay their staff a decent wage, have to pay rent/mortgage/hydro etc and still have money put in their pocket-then that is this cost of that dish and i'm good with that.

              in the year that they have been there they have been nothing but hospitable to me and my guests. i am not 'young' but around 50. i think that when i read from some of the posters here that they might have 'read somewhere' that one of the owners said this or that, the information has to be taken with a large box of salt. the internet isn't all fact, bloggers aren't journalists, second hand stories aren't experiencing the event for yourself.

              i am not saying local kitchen is for everyone (thank goodness or i would never get in!). i am a fan of the non-reservation policy. if it keeps away old cranky tourists-even better.

              cowbell had a similar buzz when it opened and they have always been hit and miss for both service and food and continue to be. local has always been consistantly great with both.

              advice to those who have never been...try it for yourself and then decide-never let anyone decide for you -don't let the fox news type bloggers enjoy what may be a good experience for you.

              not every restaurant is for everyone, some will enjoy local and some will not....but decide for yourself.

              i will be back

              16 Replies
              1. re: ingloriouseater

                Even if locally-sourced squash, apples, goat cheese and "all kinds of love" were used in the tortellini, $19 for 3 small pieces sounds over the top to me. It depends on the size of the pasta. If they were large it might make more sense.

                1. re: toboggan3

                  I'm curious as to whether it was actually 3 tortellini-sized tortellini. I have a hard time believing a restaurant would serve three one-bite pasta on a plate. I've been there a few times and the portions aren't overwhelming but that seems like a stretch.

                2. re: ingloriouseater

                  ingloriouseater, I'm curious to know how a no reservation policy ensures "old cranky tourists" stay away? This strikes me as an odd statement on many levels.

                  1. re: millygirl

                    It's not just tourists. It seems there is a notion that only young 'uns will wait in line for hours on end and older folks would rather dine early than wait for their nosh. I can't find a link but there was a story in the Globe in January headlined 'Nosh pits; Hoping to keep out the old folks and cultivate the local lovelies, restaurants such as Guu are refusing reservations and inviting chaos. As Siri Agrell finds, their lineups are becoming as trendy as their menus'

                    Within the article, Michael Sangregorio, co-owner of Local Kitchen, notes: "an older demographic of diner is absent from his popular new bistro on Queen Street West at Roncesvalles, because those willing to wait tend to be in their 20s and 30s.

                    But the place is constantly packed and Mr. Sangregorio believes the difficulty in getting a table has added to Local Kitchen's appeal."

                    I guess there's some truth to that. Although I don't consider myself old, I'm sure Mr. Sangregorio would consider me that. And I certainly wouldn't wait in line for good food or a "scene" any more. I make reservations or, indeed, dine earlier if I have to, with all the other old fogies.

                    1. re: JamieK

                      I'm in my 20s, so are most of my friends -- and few of us would wait more than 15 minutes for a table. Reservations or bust.

                        1. re: JamieK

                          I am definitely not in my 20s or 30s but I am not generally scared off by no reservations policies IF they take your cell number so you don't have to line up - we have small kids and don't get out much these days but we tried Pizza Libretto and had a great night over beers at a nearby bar while we waited for our table. I think the advent of cell phones has really eliminated the need for standing in long lines - if you go early enough and give your number and are up for a pre-dinner activity then it's not a problem.

                          1. re: JamieK

                            I rarely wait in lines these days. I don't relish the idea of eating dinner at 5 pm just to avoid a line-up, arriving at a restaurant before it opens, to be first in line, or waiting in a nearby bar, having a drink I normally wouldn't have ordered, waiting for my cell phone to ring as the restaurant works its way down the list. The line-ups are pretty much the only reason I still haven't tried Guu or Pizza Libretto. While I realize snagging a table at lunch at Pizza Libretto is quite simple, I'm almost never in the area during the day.

                            I used to have Local on my wishlist, and I was planning to try it out on a less busy weeknight, but Mr. Sangregorio's comments and 'tude leave a little to be desired. I'd rather go to a restaurant owned by someone who doesn't wish to develop a Chowlemming clientele.

                            But I suppose he's doing the other restaurants in the neighbourhood a service, sort of acting like the Pied Piper of Chowlemmings, so they don't take up valuable table space at other worthwhile restaurants in the Queen/Roncy area ;-)

                            398 Church Street, Toronto, ON M5B 2A2, CA

                            1. re: phoenikia

                              I can almost guarantee that I am the oldest member on this site, and it is true that I won't stand in line for any restaurant,but I wouldn't when I was younger either.
                              Never cared for Restaurants with a "buzz"
                              I have been to Local on two occasions ,as I work nearby,and it is easy to get a Table early.
                              We felt very welcome on both visits.
                              As for portion sizes, they are a bit skimpy, but I don't care if the quality is there.

                              1. re: phoenikia

                                Line up for food? Not unless they're giving it away,and even then...

                                1. re: phoenikia

                                  Love the phrase 'chowlemmings'. I bet the dot com for that will be reserved within seconds!

                                  FYI, I went to Pizzeria Libretto last wednesday, and was seated straight away. Maybe the chowlemmings are standing outside Local now. Kind of a loud room. Food was decent, though not overwhelmingly good.

                                  Pizzeria Libretto
                                  221 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                  1. re: phoenikia

                                    There is one compelling reason why a restaurant would want to have a no res policy and that's to make more money from a limited resource, the number of seats they have. It's a true fact that if a place can draw enough of a crowd to be full most nights, especially if they are on the small side, they can make more money with a no res policy because, quite simply, they never have to leave a table sit empty when they get no-shows or speedy diners.

                                    Consider the example of the (unnamed because it doesn't matter) place we had pre-opera dinner on Friday, it used to be no-res but started taking reservations a while ago. We arrived for our early reservation to be told that there was a time limit on the table, a generous time limit of 2 1/2 hours, we responded that it wouldn't be a problem since we had theater tickets for 2 hours from now. We ate a full meal with a bottle of wine in 1.5 hours. At this place there's nothing they could have done with an empty 2 top for just one hour so almost certainly that table sat empty, not generating money for an hour, if they had a no-res policy they would have just gone to the next people in the list and probably squeezed an extra turn out of that table.

                                    Any restaurateur who imagines a no-res policy draws a desirable demographic or helps create buzz is nucking futs, reality is it's probably a wash, it drives away as many people as it draws.

                                      1. re: bytepusher

                                        Well put bytepusher. In addition a no res policy also allows the house to control the flow of seating. That allows them to better pace the service especially from the kitchen.

                                      2. re: phoenikia

                                        Folks, we removed a tangent critical of the type of people who might enjoy this restaurant, and that's not allowed. Please keep discussion on the food at this restaurant.

                                    1. re: millygirl

                                      I am not really sure why everyone is freaking out about the "no reservations" policy. First of all, I just made a reservation there (it was for the chef table but still) without problem. Second, there are a TON of great restaurants in T.O, that don't take reservations and yet they are no complaints. In fact, there are still huge waits... places such as Liberetto, Grazie, Lee Garden. And that is just three that always have huge line ups right off the top of my head.

                                      I really like this restaurant for a lot of reasons. I think this is definitely a candidate for my old thread of restaurants I love, you hate:

                                      2373 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4P2C8, CA

                                      Lee Garden Restaurant
                                      331 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E9, CA

                                  2. Local is one of those "I don't get it" places for me. For a wine bar I thought they had a pretty limited selection of reds by the glass, their charcuterie platter was very underwhelming and my pasta main was nothing to write home about.

                                    One and done for me, would rather eat at Brockton General, Black Hoof, heck even Union over this place.

                                    The only thing I remember about the service was the the girl serving us hardly knew anything about wines, so it was hard to get a suggestion from her. Otherwise she was quite pleasant.

                                    Glad it's so popular and the neighbourhood is cherishing it, hopefully it keeps people away from the busy places I love!!!

                                    The Black Hoof
                                    928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                    Brockton General
                                    1321 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1Y1, CA

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: themiguel

                                      I'm fully on the same page. I just don't get it. So many better options a show walk away why would anyone bother?

                                    2. My girlfriend and I ate at Local last night, and while the service was fine (attentive and very pleasant) the food was definitely worse than I was expecting, given the reviews.

                                      I started with an anchovy appetizer that was basically an anchovy on a small piece of toasted bread, drizzled with olive oil. It was actually quite good, and for $5 wasn't a bad deal (although it was quite small - about two bites - so some may think otherwise). For my "main course" I had the berkshire maple-smoked, the waitress did try to tell me that it was basically a "big plate of meat" so I can't really fault her, but I guess I expected something more than about 20 thin slices of pancetta on a board (I was envisioning a more susbtantial piece of meat). It was also quite tasty, but I really think that they should be offering it as more of an appetizer for sharing (for $25 it would be a bit of an expensive appetizer at Local, but it just isn't a main course and I think that that should be made clearer). That being said, it was tasty and I would have been happy with it as part of a shared appetizer.

                                      The rest of the food, though, was a letdown. My girlfriend had the whitefish, and she commented that it was dry and that the tomato sauce tasted like it had come from a can. She isn't a fan of fish skin, which is a shame since I tasted the skin and I think that it was the best part of the dish, but even with the skin the dish just wasn't very good. She left at least half of it on the plate (given how small the portion was, this was definitely noticeable), and when the waittress asked if she hadn't liked it she said that she hadn't, really. It was still on the bill when we got it (not that I necessarily expected them to take it off, but I had thought that they might have done something, like maybe comp us the $5 for the anchovy appetizer).

                                      Since we were both still quite hungry, we then ordered an appetizer-sized portion of the gnocchi to share, given some of the good reviews I've read on here about it. I thought that the taste was nice enough, but the texture was terrible (almost mushy) and the presentation was also very poor (like it was just thrown on the plate). My girlfriend didn't like the taste or the texture at all, although she ate some since she was starving.

                                      All in all, not a great experience. The room itself is cozy and charming and the service was nice, but the food just wasn't on par. I may try it again, but given how many good restaurants there are out there I more than likely may not (and if I do, I'll have to go with someone else since my girlfriend refuses to return).