Yorkville Espresso Bar
Yorkville Espresso Bar may seem simply an Italian cafe on the surface, but it also serves as a showroom through which owner Tony Briganti parades his development expertise.
I'm not sure exactly what to make of the space as I climb its steps off of Yorkville Ave. Sure, the cafe has the obligatory exposed brick wall, chalkboard menu, and bistro seating characteristic of many of Toronto's independent coffee shops, but it also has an open wall which leads to...a kitchen? Not a bakery kitchen, but one that looks akin to that you'd find in your parents' home.
Tony emerges from a back room just as I'm about to escape back to the cafe region and explains the dual-focused concept. "I had an office upstairs," he begins, "but I always wanted a storefront."
"The kitchen," he explains, "not only shows what we [his company, Rosemill Development Inc.] can do in terms of home renovations, but we have also partnered with The Cookbook Store to host events in the evening.
Indeed, author Jennifer McLagan was at the space a couple weeks ago, cooking up cows' hearts, pigs' feet, and kidneys galore in support of her latest book, Odd Bits, which is available at The Cookbook Store.
These events explain what Tony calls an "early closing time" for the cafe (6 p.m.), though the time strikes me as relatively standard, at least when it comes to independent coffee shops. Speaking of which, Tony and I venture out of the kitchen and into the cafe, which he says was created with the intention of creating an authentic Italian experience. "Espresso and cannoli," he says. Both of which, of course, are on the menu.
While the baked goods--which include cannoli, biscotti, brioche and more--come from a variety of different sources, the coffee is strictly Rufino organic, paired with the option of organic milk or soy milk (no extra charge). "I'd love to see this become a place where people pop in for an espresso," Tony says, noting the cafe does not offer WiFi. "Like they do in Europe."
There are just two tables so an extended stay would be difficult, though those interested in exploring the kitchen area and development aspects will indeed have much to look at. I glance over the drink menu, which includes basics such as espresso ($2.21) and Americano ($2.33), as well as specialty espresso shots including caffè marocchino ($2.87) and something called the "caffè Brigante" (named for Tony), which is essentially the marocchino except with white chocolate.
I order the shot and am presented with the drink on a plate dusted with cacao powder. The shot is rich, dark, and chocolaty, sweetened on the last sip with the white chocolate remnants. Slightly melted by the hot espresso, I can't help but dig out the last chocolate bits with a spoon.
Tony says that the cafe will be introducing lunch items including pizza and sandwiches in the coming weeks. For now, Yorkville Espresso Bar is open weekdays starting at 7 a.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m., and Sundays at 10 a.m.
Photos by Morris Lum