When I moved into Little Italy this past winter, I had no idea that this neighbourhood would turn out to be such a gem. Commonly known for its old Italian joints, martini bars and bad clubs, Little Italy has undergone some major changes in the past few years. In addition to its central location between Ossington, Trintiy Bellwoods, Bloor and Kensington market, Little Italy now boasts its fair share of cool shops, hip hang outs and great eats. Here are a few suggestions for a day out on College West.
Start with breakfast at Easy Restaurant at the end of Montrose street (the little sister to the original Parkdale location). With decor inspired by Easy Rider and 70s Americana, this place has a breezy (in part due to its garage door facade which opens onto a small patio in the summer), laid back vibe and awesome food. Serving all day breakfast as well as cocktails, lunch and dinner, my pick for brunch is the huevos divorciados (the house specialty, with two eggs on soft white corn tortillas with refried beans, guacamole, salsa and a spicy-sweet ancho jam) or the west coast toast (eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, dill and black caviar). Last time I was there our server was kind enough to top off our coffees in to go cups. Grab yours and continue west on College.
Next up, shopping!
For things things you want and don’t need, check out Red Pegasus. There you’ll find clever and well designed greeting cards that function as well for art as they do for well wishing, kitschy and cool home decor items, locally designed and sourced jewellery, and a cute collection of gifts for little ones.
For hip men’s clothing and colourful scooters, Motoretta can’t be beat in this neighbourhood. I’m dying for a mustard yellow scooter, but on my last visit settled for some cool new duds for the boyfriend.
The Arthur is a favourite for most of my household – a small well curated shop of vintage finds and cool local crafts, we’ve picked up antique trunks, a mad men era watch and several art cards on recent visits.
Finally, Soundscapes is Little Italy’s record and concert ticket mecca. Check out their website for upcoming shows and be sure to hit the bank on your way – like Rotate This, Soundscapes is cash only for all tickets.
By now, it’s probably been adequate time since brunch to get your day drink on. For afternoon and early evening cocktails I’m partial to the secluded back patio at Fuel House (hidden slightly north of College on Clinton) or the homey atmosphere at No One Writes the Colonel (460 College). If you’re getting hungry, pop across the street and put your name on the list for La Carnita. No matter what day of the week, if you’re there after 6pm, you’ll be waiting. But do it – it’s so very worth it. Order whatever special the chef has cooking that day (the corn fritters are amazing) and make sure your taco selection includes “In Cod We Trust.”
If Little Italy has you craving Italian instead, Hey Meatball (at the end of Montrose) has the best spaghetti and meatballs I’ve ever had. A super casual spot, Hey Meatball offers 6ish daily specials which always include a vegetarian option. There are plenty of tables to eat in, or have your pasta packed up and head to the park.
If it’s a low key kind of evening, catch a flick at the Royal. The historic movie house has been around since 1939 and typically hosts indie/art house style films and documentaries. Sarah Polley’s Take this Waltz and the the Bob Marly documentary were both playing at the time of this post.
If you’ve still got some energy and it’s the drink you’re after, continue the crawl along College. I recommend stops at Ted’s Collision (a delightfully gritty pub) for a pint and Souz Dal (a dark, romantic spot you’d never notice if you weren’t looking for it) for cocktails. If you’re feeling brave, knock on the door at the members only speakeasy style lounge Toronto Temperance Society and see if they’ll let you upstairs sans membership.
Wherever the night takes you, if you’ve still got room at the end of it, Steamies makes a damn good hot dog. If ice cream is more your speed, Steamies is located behind the Big Chill (at Manning). Best of both worlds if you ask me.
Other honourable mentions include Hogtown Pub and Oysters for upscale pub food, Sneaky Dees for the world’s best nachos and rock and roll dance parties, and while admittedly off of College, Sam James on Harbord makes a delightful cup of coffee.