A few weeks ago I met with my friend Daniella after work to sample the menu at Mavrik Wine Bar. As our dinner was finishing up we decided to scoot down a little farther west on Queen Street for Church Aperitivo‘s opening night. The space was packed full of fashion forward ladies and gentlemen clutching their ice cold cocktails. The sound of gold and silver watches clattering against crystal glasses. I enjoyed a few drinks but had work the following morning so decided to coordinate a separate tasting of the chef’s menu at a later date.
Fast forward and I’m now back at “Church” on a beautiful sunny Spring day (in March no less) to enjoy the chef’s tasting menu. I invited Daniella to join me as we already had a history with the place. I wanted her to have the opportunity to not just enjoy their cocktails but suss out the menu offerings as well. Such a small world, I walked into the restaurant and run into Nicki from View the Vibe and Val from I’m Charming You enjoying a few nibbles. A few moments later Natalie from Near Afar shows up as well!
It wasn’t just a coincidence (I soon learned), there was a reason everyone was here shortly after work (which I was not privy to). Every Tuesday to Saturday from 5:00pm-6:30pm the restaurant offers complimentary antipasti and stuzzichini with the purchase of a beverage. Val and Nicki were munching on bruschetta and arancini and enjoying a bottle of red wine when I sat down with a big beaming look on my face. It’s always nice to run into friends, especially just before you are about to indulge in a mystery dinner. Daniella arrived moments later. We soon had drinks in our hands and plate after plate whisked under our noses.
We enjoyed (* notes my favorites):
Tanqueray Gin, Campari Sweet Vermouth, muddled juice of 3 limes, 2 mint leafs, 1 sugar cube
The Holy Caesar *
Ketel One Vodka, Clamato Juice, dill pickle juice, muddled peperoncino and basil, black peppercorn and pink rock salt rim
Aperol, Prosecco, Soda
Crostini Board *
black olive spread, cured salmon, ricotta and honey, roasted red peppers
Fromaggi Platter *
italian cheeses, fresh figs, walnuts, jelly
Veal and Pork Meatballs *
house made sugo
potato saffron cream, olives
Calamari, Mussels, Clams, Scallops, Shrimps
cherry tomato, basil pesto, mascarpone cheese
My favorite part of our meal was the beginning. The crostini and fromaggi platter were exceptional and provided a really great way to share food at the table. I also love eating anything out of little jars with petite spoons, so easily pleased. The meatballs were exceptionally soft and Tiramisu was a lovely rich finish. The restaurants notable wine and cocktail list make it a great spot to enjoy after work drinks and nibbles.
However I did find it a bit odd that the bar (which stretches the length of the restaurant) was playing a basketball game during the duration of our meal. It clashes with the restaurants fine dining concept. I kept thinking it would have been more appropriate for them to be playing a loop of Fashion Television.
Toronto will flock to Church to grab a drink after work and sample from their free antipasti table. I do think it is a great promotion but unfortunately it poorly showcases the quality of food coming out of their kitchen. I highly recommend they transition their offerings to be more cold plate friendly. The honest truth is the food sits on a table for 90 minutes. There is nothing more unappealing than cold arancini and soggy bruschetta. I would hate for anyone to sample this free food and form an opinion of their kitchen based on the quality of these offerings. Do yourself a favor and order off the menu. There are certainly a few treats worth discovering.