Ventisette, as made obvious by its name, is an authentic Italian cafe and gelateria on Yonge between Lawrence and York Mills. Approaching the front entrance you can't help but notice the vertical gelato machine in the window, where owner Mario Gimigliano tells me you'll often find him working.
"I'd like to meet anyone who will say you can create a better product with a horizontal machine," he says. "I've never seen it; it just doesn't come out the correct temperature for serving."
Mario knows equipment, having spent several years of his life working in the sector and actually teaching others how to properly operate espresso machines for the past couple of years.
"This stuff is in my blood," he says as we sit down with coffee, he with an espresso ($1.90) and myself with an Americano ($2.19). The white tables in the shop are adorned with little vases, each with a sole, fake flower. Feeling the rough, woven petal, I can help but consider it even more authentically Italian, admittedly in the most stereotypical way.
Mario's family has been in coffee for generations, and his uncle is actually the owner of Rufino roasters, which supplies the new cafe with his beans. "We created a special blend," Mario says. "I wanted something medium bodied, something of Dutch chocolate flavour (Mario trained as a chocolatier in Belgium), with a nice finish." My Americano strikes me as slightly milder than Mario describes, but it certainly hints of chocolate with just a slight linger on the tongue.
Along with his training in chocolate, Mario studied pastries and gelato in Italy. Ventisette will offer a rotating roster of all-natural gelato ($3.10/$4.25/$5.60) throughout the winter, deliberately stored in a windowless cooler.
"This blocks light, oxygen, heat from human hand," Mario says. "Those are all things that stale gelato."
The pastry selection dabbles in French but mostly sticks with traditional Italian offerings such as cannoli ($3.25) and lots of little cookies priced at $4.00/100g. I sample the amaretti and it has a nice, nutty flavour and slightly chewy texture. Needless to say, all of the pastries are made with natural ingredients.
"I have two kids," Mario says, "and I want them to be able to come in here and eat whatever they want. So I use really butter, real sugar, real nuts, and I roast them myself."
Upcoming plans for Ventisette include sipping chocolates, new truffles, and expanded pastry offers.
The bakery/cafe offers free WiFi and is open Monday 8:00AM to 6:00PM, Tuesday to Thursday 8:00AM to 9:00PM, Friday to Saturday 8:00AM to 10:00PM, and Sunday 9:00AM to 7:00PM.
Photos by Jesse Milns