If there’s anything I’ve learned after spending over 7 years living in Toronto it’s that there is always a new neighbourhood, community, restaurant and dish worth devouring. When I first landed in Parkdale back in 2010 I spent my first 12 months discovering the city’s West End: coffee strolls in High Park, a pierogi pilgrimage up Roncesvalles and regular late night bacchanal’s at West Queen West’s hipster hotspots.
I’ve now spent the majority of my tenure in Toronto living a short walk from Yonge and Bloor, the city’s nexus where subway lines shooting in all four directions offer easy access to corners of the city waiting to be discovered. Every few months I make a point to familiarize myself with a new culinary community, spending entire days playing tourist while eating my way through vibrant neighbourhoods like Little India, China Town and Little Jamaica.
I recently set off on an adventure to North York, a region of the city I’m totally unfamiliar, in search of a fine Italian feast. While sitting on a bus that slowly chugged through traffic I couldn’t help but smile as we twirled through the lush parks that stand nestled along Leslie Street. I popped off at the Shops at Don Mills and skipped through the swank shopping centre in search of Chef Mark McEwan’s Fabbrica.
Designed by Giannone Petricone, the 150-seat dining room offers an airy, contemporary vibe, seasoned with accents of iconic Italian style. At the front entrance you’ll find a 15 seat bar which splashes onto a sun-soaked patio. Skip towards the back dining room and pause to peak into the restaurant’s cold storage room where endless jars of pickled vegetables and canned tomatoes sit quietly staring up at a flock of cured meats.
Plop yourself down in the open concept dining room and you’ll find yourself staring at Chef Missy Hui as she spins perfectly scorched pizzas out of Fabbrica’s impressive wood-burning brick oven. Chef Hui joined the McEwan Group in 2007 for the opening of ONE and worked her way through the ranks. In 2013 she was named one of the Top 30 Under 30 by the Ontario Hostelry Institute and went on to compete on the popular television show Chopped Canada where she took home the top prize.
Chef Missy keeps her culinary brigade on its toes, always keen to keep things creative by swapping out old dishes with new Italian inspirations. Like Chef McEwan’s other celebrated restaurants, Fabbrica sources only the finest ingredients – many of which fly over from Italy, like Roma tomatoes ripened in San Marzano, and flour hand-milled in Naples for the restaurants handmade pasta and pizza dough.
If you’re a downtowner like me, taking the trek to Fabbrica automatically qualifies you for an unbridled menu adventure where calories aren’t counted and carbs are fully loaded. Start things off by sharing a generous jug of strawberry and citrus muddled sangria before delighting yourselves with a parade of pretty plates. Highlights include port stewed figs with creamy burrata, truffle and pickled shallot topped carpaccio, any of the perfect pizzas, pillow-soft ricotta gnocchi and a decadent “bacon chop,” paired with sweet peach, onion marmalata and crunchy hazelnut parsley pesto.
Barrel Aged Negroni | tanqueray gin, campari, antica formula, sweet vermouth
Fragola Spagliato | aperol, martini bianco vermouth, prosecco, strawberry
Bianco Sangria | brandy, cointreau, white cranberry, strawberry, citrus
Burrata | walnut pesto, port stewed figs, roasted grapes
Insalata di Fabbrica | romaine hearts, housemade italian style bacon, toasted focaccia, parm and garlic anchovy dressing
Beef Carpaccio | cured egg yolk, truffle, piave, pickled shallot
Salsiccia | tomato, mozzarella, pork sausage, lonza, smoked pancetta
Pappardelle | braised beef shortrib, tomato, basil
Ricotta Gnocchi | fresh tomato, basil, burrata
Agnolotti | celeriac, hen of the woods, scallion, black truffle
Shrimp | grilled scallion, chili, butter, farro
Bacon Chop | peach, onion marmalata, hazelnut parsley pesto