Alimento Fine Food Emporium
Alimento is really three businesses in one; it's a "fine food emporium" (or grocery store, to the layman among us), a bakery (which, technically, operates under the name Forno Cultura), and a full-service restaurant and cafe (BAR Mozza), offering authentic Italian cuisine.
Actually, "authentic Italian" is the mantra carried throughout the recently opened King West space, which has been teasing the area with its renovations for more than a year now. Brothers Marco, Joe, Albert Jr., and Anthony Contardi are the men behind the project, and they also happen to be the owners of the six Grande Cheese shops in and near the GTA.
"This shop," says Andrea Mastrandrea, a Contardi family lifelong friend and Forno Cultura owner, "this was supposed to be the seventh. But it was Marco--he thought we should do something more.
Alimento does indeed offer a counter of fresh cheeses, 90% of which, Andrea says, are imported from Italy. The rest is made in-house. But to go along with your Cacio di Fossa ($40.99/lb), Bra Duro ($35.99/lb), or plain old Ricotta ($8.99/lb), is a marketplace of specialty deli meats, premium olive oils, homemade pastas, sauces, and sides, fresh picks from the olive bar, candies and chocolates from Italy, gifts, and even a flower station with a table for wrapping. And that's all just in the market end.
There's still a bakery and restaurant, which Andrea takes me to explore, starting with the bakery, which, indeed, is his domain. "French baking is something that's definitely already represented in this city," he says. "But Italian, not so much."
"These are the recipes I got from my father and grandfather," he continues, as we scan the baskets of amaretti ($15.00/lb), hazelnut biscotti ($11.00/lb), and about a dozen other varieties. "Here, try this," Andrea says, handing me a cookie from the amaretti bianchi display. "You don't have to eat the whole thing, but just taste--it's all natural, authentic, just like they do in Italy." Of course, I eat the whole thing. It's crunchy, nutty, and sweet--amazing.
The bakery (on the lower level) also prepares fresh brioche loaves ($5), focaccia ($6), and other breads daily. But obviously, that's not all for the kitchen. Alimento is essentially divided down the middle, where the west end serves as restaurant and cafe. Full sit-down service is available during lunch and dinner, where a menu of traditional Italian dishes borrows ingredients straight from the adjacent market.
There are pastas such as the Fettucine Nero with squid ink, cuttlefish, nduja, garlic, and oregano ($15), pizzas including the Parmigianna made with tomato, fior di latte, smoked ricotta, roasted eggplant, and basil ($13), and a 14 oz. bone-in rib eye ($27) and other Secondi. Coffees and pastries are available for take-out in the morning, as well as pizza, salads, and other quick grab-and-go items during lunch.
The idea, Andrea explains, is to have the market complement the restaurant, and vice versa. "If we're talking about the heart of the Italian community," he says, "really, that's more in Woodbridge. The idea here, though, is to bring that right downtown; meaning the quality, the flavour, the style. Just like they do it in Italy."
Photos by Jesse Milns