Fabbrica is the latest restaurant from uber chef Mark McEwan . But unlike his other culinary hotspots - One , North 44 and Bymark among them - here he attempts to recreate rustic and authentic homemade Italian food.
Fabbrica is the Italian word for factory so it's no surprise that the look of this new addition to the Shops at Don Mills features smatterings of industrial design mixed with modern elements - all assembled by Giannone Petricone Associates , the same team behind Terroni , Osteria Ciceri e Tria and Fresh restaurants .
Inside, there's a lounge area that's modern and chic balanced with a dining area that has a much warmer and cozy feel with brown textures, rustic wood and views of the wood-burning oven.
On the night I dined here Mark McEwan himself was walking around, welcoming customers and running back and forth between the restaurant and his gourmet grocery store across the street.
For my antipasti, I started with the Straciatella alla Romana ($9), a traditional Italian "wedding soup" with a chicken broth base and topped with egg and reggiano. Growing up in an Italian household this soup quickly sent me back to my nonnaʼs kitchen. Light and comforting, the soup emanated a perfect aroma compliments of the green herb, egg and cheese blend.
Moving on to the entrees (yes, I ordered two), I first dig into the Margherita pizza ($17 - top photo). Compared to other trattorias and pizzerias I visited recently such as Terroni, Dimmi , and
Cinquecento Trattoria , $17 for a Margherita pizza seemed high but my first bite reassured me the North Toronto price point was worth every penny.
An authentically handcrafted pizza, the Margherita was topped (as expected) with fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and olive oil and is McEwanʼs necessary test toward successfully recreating the basic, authentic Italian food he's going for here. Size-wise, the pie isn't as large as Terroniʼs, but the quality of ingredients (exemplified by the dough that tastes ridiculously fresh) surpasses most others in the city.
Up next was a Sergio panino ($14). Here, the kitchen continued to display its authentic Italian chops with a sandwich stuffed with meatballs, tomato, mozzarella and basil. Paired with a small side of tomato sauce for dipping, this beautifully crip and chewy creation was highlighted by meatballs that tasted like they were just packed together in my nonna's cantina a couple minutes prior.
If there was any point where my dining experience at Fabbrica underwhelmed it was undoubtedly with the dessert card. The zeppole ($10), mini round doughnuts covered in cinnamon and stuffed with custard, came with a side dish filled with an orange cream. While I enjoyed the delicate taste and very soft texture of the dish it somehow just seemed average compared to the dishes that proceeded it.
My cannoli ($3.50 each) continued down the slippery slope. It was dry (stale perhaps?) and simply didn't exude the homemade goodness like the rest of the meal. Simply put, it was bad. I know how great a cannoli can taste and this was nowhere close. In fact, for those looking for excellent cannoli in Toronto I recommend Savina Cristiano, a nice lady who currently makes the cannoli for the Distillery Market (formerly Fresh and Wild) in the Distillery District . Not only are her cannoli bigger, but they are a hundred times better (no exaggeration).
Alas, I'm not one to let a stale cannoli ruin my meal or impression so overall my experience at Mark McEwan's factory was a good one, filled with extreme moments of fulfillment and only minor disappointment.
While McEwan was not completely successful in recreating my grandmother's kitchen and the organic, home made authenticity of Italian food, he was only a cannoli or so short. As a whole, Fabbrica's soup, pizza and panini were fresh, authentic and a wonderful surprise from one of Toronto's top chefs who to date hasn't been known for this type of food.
Writing and photos by Alexander J Yolevski