Centro Trattoria & Formaggi
Centro Trattoria & Formaggi has been the place to go for imported Italian foods on St. Clair for over 30 years, and it's exactly what you would expect from an authentic Italian eatery.
I stepped into the shop in Corso Italia near Dufferin Street and was immediately struck by the volume of food in the space; cheeses hanging from the ceiling, counters of deli meats, and cookies and crackers made by companies whose names I would surely mispronounce. The owner, Mr. Celebre, was unfortunately not in, but the ladies behind the counter filled me on the details on the store.
While some of the items sold are locally produced, such as the Santa Lucia cheeses made at International Cheese, many of the packaged products are imported directly from Italy. Those include Centro's various kids of dry pastas, olives, oils, coffee and breads. But the cheese is the main pull for customers in the area, "Especially the parmigiano," says the lady behind the counter. Of course, there's every other kind you could imagine, from Piave to Auricchio Piccante, Jarlsberg Crotonese to Swiss Emmental.
The back end of the store is actually a dining area serving homemade foods to the area lunch crowd. "Fish on Friday," the woman says. "Calamari--that's squid, you know--salmon, rainbow trout, it's all very good."
And the recipes? "Authentic of course. All authentic Italian recipes." Of course, I had to try something. Though the veal sandwich ($5.50) is toted as a customer favourite, I opted for a good old plate of spaghetti and tomato sauce with a little parmesan ($5.95) and took a seat at one of the salmon-pink tables.
It was delicious, hearty and fresh, and of course I made the mistake of digging in way too fast. The TV fixed to the corner ceiling was playing some soccer game as I realized my error, feeling the weight of the food in my stomach. I looked around at the Italy posters to my right and soccer statues to my left, feeling helpless and guilty at the thought of returning my plate only half eaten.
I closed my eyes and thought of Italy as I picked away more slowly until I felt less shameful about my returned amount. As I got up, I vowed to next time try one of Centro's famed stuffed peppers ($8.50) and eat much more slowly.
Photos by Dennis Marciniak