Caffe Furbo has that off-the-streets-of-Rome feel. Not that I'm any sort of expert on authentic Italian cafes. Not in the least. But as I get to talking to owner Kevin Bonnici, I'm reminded more and more of the little cafes and lounges I came across on my one and only trip to Italy several years ago.
The space is open and airy, with the Douglas fir and exposed brick characteristic of the Distillery District. Behind the counter are shelves and shelves of sparkling wine glasses, next to the gleaming espresso machine and hanging lamps. Bonnici has lowered the tables scattered throughout the café to give Furbo more of a laid-back feel, and paired them with white chairs and the occasional upholstered bench. And on the wall--canvas paintings, done by Boccini himself.
But it's not so much the look of the space that is reminiscent of Rome, as is the overall vibe. It's very modern, sensual almost, yet relaxed and comfortable. As we chat, Boccini's daughter does her homework on one of the low white tables.
"I love talking to people," Bonnici tells me when I ask why he decided to open a cafe after 20 years in finance. "A bunch of us were let go a year and a half ago, so I decided to look at my life. I thought, 'What do I love?' I love coffee. I love talking to people. This would embrace that joie de vivre."
Caffe Furbo is brand new. Located in the Distillery District, I catch it on just its fourth day, still trying to get the word out and working on a liquor license. "I'm hoping to have it within a month," Bonnici says. "Then get some good wines, and some cheeses to pair nicely--but that's my wife's domain."
Bonnici also plans to source fresh artisanal breads, as well as savory Mediterranean pastries. "I really hope to become a meeting place, and also host events and private functions." With a maximum capacity of 45, the events will have to be intimate, but the ample wall space and "kickass sound system," as Bonnici tells me, would likely make for a great exhibition.
Then, of course, there's the espresso machine, which Bonnici can't help but dote on. "Oh," he says, strolling toward the Faema. "It has just become my best friend. I don't even have drip coffee. I figure, why? It takes me two minutes to make you something, and in the meantime I can ask you about your day."
Though while he makes me an espresso ($1.80), Bonnici tells me about the Haiti Roma beans he and two other business owners have exclusively imported to Toronto. "It's a little more expensive, but it has just a beautiful taste." And it did; very harmonic, bold, and not at all bitter. Other drinks include cappuccino ($3.09), Americano ($1.98), and cappuccino doppio (3.81). The baked offerings, including scones ($2.14) and croissants ($2.25) have been sourced from bakers around the city.
"I really want this to be a neighbourhood spot," Bonnici says motioning over the tables. "Just a minimalist place with maximum heart."
Photos by Dennis Marciniak