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San Francesco Foods

Posted by Staff / Reviewed on April 22, 2013 / review policy

San Francesco Foods TorontoSan Francesco Foods has been a part of the Toronto landscape for going on almost 60 years now. A family-owned Italian takeaway renowned in particular for its veal sandwich, competition from local shops and larger chains has more recently taken its toll, and over the last few years San Francesco has been reduced to a single downtown Toronto location (the others exist outside the core).

San Francesco Foods TorontoThat might be about to change: San Francesco Foods has new owners who seem intent on taking the eatery into the 21st century. It has a slick new website, and the cramped Clinton location has been renovated, with the underused deli counter replaced by a few tables and a lunch counter so that patrons no longer have to take their grub to eat at the Monarch Tavern next door. The menu's been updated (though old favourites remain) and prices raised (still very reasonable); a fourth location, albeit in Bradford, is also planned. It's a big step forward, and one that might be difficult given the quality of the food.

San Francesco Foods TorontoUnderwhelming is probably the best way to describe San Francesco's fare these days. A recent addition to the menu, a small starter/side of Cacciatore ($3.50) - an Italian salami traditionally seasoned with pepper and spices - is available in both sweet and spicy varieties. It's not unpleasant, but offers little in the way of flavour or texture, and isn't better than an equivalent product you could buy at the supermarket.

San Francesco Foods TorontoThe porchetta sandwich ($7.50), another new addition, fares a little better. The pork is buttery and moist, but again lacks almost any flavour of its own, and certainly not the smoke, herb or spice one might be accustomed to in a better porchetta. A herb mustard attempts to remedy this, but would be virtually undetectable if not for its green colour. Green peppers and onions, which are particularly sweet and tasty, do a better job, but the overall result is still an average at best sandwich. With Porchetta & Co. a five minute walk away on Dundas, there is little reason to order this sandwich.

San Francesco Foods TorontoAll of San Francesco's classic hot Italian sandwiches come on fresh Kaiser rolls, served with either sweet, regular or spicy tomato sauce. The sandwiches are under-sauced though, so they have to stand on the merits of the meat. The meatball sandwich ($6) is gigantic, and trite as it may be to say, your enjoyment of it will probably depend entirely on your enjoyment of old school Italian meatballs. Veal ($6.50), the classic San Francesco sandwich, is better, tender enough to melt into the bun, but is anything but remarkable.

San Francesco Foods TorontoLike everything at San Francesco Foods, the pizza slices ($2.50/4) are enormous and underdone - the slice needed another minute or two in the oven. The (relatively) thin crust pizza is a bit bready, but the tomato sauce is quite good when you actually get any - our slice was about half sauced. Toppings are skimpy to boot, as the pepperoni just surpasses the minimum legal threshold of what constitutes a topping. Despite these shortcomings, I'm still compelled to say it's a decent slice, and at $2.50 for the cheese/pepperoni it's hard to complain too much.

There's nothing wrong with classic or old school food - there's a reason institutions become institutions. For whatever reason, though, San Francesco Foods' fare just hasn't kept pace. There's no reason why it couldn't eventually recover its previous status, but today it's hard to recommend it given that better options like Porchetta & Co. and California Sandwiches exist nearby.

San Francesco FoodsWriting by Anders Whist / Photos by Miranda Whist

Discussion

58 Comments

LH / July 10, 2008 at 11:50 am
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The sandwiches are really good here (better than California sandwiches in my opinion, but Mustachio's in the St. Lawrence Market still is the best!)
peter / July 13, 2008 at 02:11 am
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many have tryed to imitate san fran food
including california which it sucks
they never duplicate it
get ur own idea losers
julie / August 1, 2009 at 08:24 am
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There really is NO competition. San Veal Sandwiches are without a doubt, the most amazing sandwich in the city of toronto. Did a taste test between San and Cali two weeks ago, and for the best taste expierience, San wins EVERY time. We drive to toronto from Sarnia just to grab these sandwiches and have a beer at the Monarch. Yummmm and mouth currently watering!!!!
Ahnoneemoos / March 5, 2010 at 12:32 pm
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This place has fantastic sausage sammies. Fantastic!
Dave / May 13, 2010 at 04:47 pm
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^^^^ Cali sandwiches are better hands down... but the deepfried panzerotto are good and huge... good olives and italian sausage as well....
daniel / May 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm
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the best veals in all of toronto i dont think i ever tasted a better veal in my life this place is the best i wish i lived closer all the older locations are not the same but the one one clinton is the best
Lauren / April 23, 2011 at 10:23 am
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I love San Fran. Been going there since i was a kid. Everything is made fresh from scratch! Amazing!
Mike / May 18, 2011 at 01:48 pm
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I say their pizza is pretty great. I love going up to the Monarch Tavern next door with my slice and having a beer. Toronto's best kept secret.
sam / June 11, 2012 at 09:08 pm
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come to Niagara Falls and try our Veal.....you will never eat veal anywhere else....San Francesco Deli....5546 Robinson St...905-357-6137
Jay / September 6, 2012 at 03:28 pm
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For those in the east, San Francesco also has a location in East York on Coxwell just south of O'Connor. It may be a bit of a dive to look at but the sandwhiches are great and you get good portions.
VEAL DEAL / September 6, 2012 at 04:28 pm
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Agincourt Bakery on Pharmacy north of Finch should be included on this list.

It's worth the drive to Scarborough for the veal!
Kevin replying to a comment from VEAL DEAL / September 18, 2012 at 12:43 pm
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I AGREE with veal deal
Joe / December 22, 2012 at 04:17 pm
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I grew up eating those fabulous veal sandwiches from San Fran, east York location. And I've also tried calis several times just to break it up. In my opinion San Fran wins hands hands down down every time. I'll tell you why. Anyone can purchase a few slices of veal and lightly fry them with breaking. Anyone can find good fresh kisser rolls. But the magic is the sauce!!! San Fran should patten that distinctive flavourful sauce hard to forget. Cali's doesn't come close. Yes I agree Cali's is a bigger bun more veal in it, but their sauce is bitter. That kills it for me.


Phil / December 27, 2012 at 04:42 pm
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These used to be a big franchise in the GTA weren't they? I remember a popular one on Queen West (south side) somewhere near Bathurst. Looks like they've all been sold as individual restaurants, but the few remaining individually-owned locations still sport the same logo.

It would be cool to see a story on the history of these guys and their legacy in Toronto. There's absolutely nothing online.
nuh-uh / April 22, 2013 at 09:27 am
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New owners, not management.

They've upped the prices while they're doing some on-the-job learning. As in learning how to forget an order, how to completely fuck an order up with the wrong toppings, and learning how to stand behind the counter with a blank, stoned look when asked any questions.

I'd have loved to see the guys succeed, but taking an order, then promptly forgetting to cook it, then taking another order and hearing 'pepperoni' instead of 'onion' and then asking if I would pay for the pizza they fucked up, sorry guys, ain't gonna cut it.

Hopefully they'll get their act together. Hopefully. Till then, I'll stick to Bitondo's. Not as many toppings, but at least they can get the order right.
Guffin replying to a comment from nuh-uh / April 22, 2013 at 10:08 am
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Maybe if you wore a 1970's farm hat they could hear you better.
megr / April 22, 2013 at 10:43 am
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Bitondos across the street is better
Rick / April 22, 2013 at 10:57 am
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I used to be a big San Fran customer (Mississauga locations) until the ownership change... It's not that it isnt any good... just different... I've moved on....

The much more better and consistant option for a good veal sandwich is by far California sandwiches... There are also a handful of italian hot table spots around the city/GTA (search blog TO) where you can find super delicious versions of the veal sandwich, or any other italian pasta/meat/pizza offering.
lauro / April 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm
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New ownership has ruined the place. decor and sitting space ain't going to fix the horrible food. 35 year customer gone!
Josh / April 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm
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Is the new ownership Italian at least?
KEVIN / April 22, 2013 at 01:31 pm
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You MUST try the Fallingbrook Market and Cafe (kingston rd and fallingbrook). Tony and Claudia make a fantastic veal sandwich... in fact everything is amazing and authentically Italian!
EY TILL WE DIE replying to a comment from Joe / April 22, 2013 at 01:59 pm
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You ate the Coxwell. Hee hee hee.
Gerthasaurus / April 22, 2013 at 02:17 pm
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I love going to the one at Dufferin & Finch. The guys there make up the price on the spot. A chicken sammy can be anywhere between 6 and 9 bucks, depending on what number the guy makes up. They also have posters of skeevy women in bikinis from the 80s plastered on the walls. THE BEST
Giovanna / April 22, 2013 at 02:21 pm
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Panini At Weston and 7 hands down best paninos in the gta
Bobby / April 22, 2013 at 02:50 pm
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Cali and Bitondos FTW, everything else is not even worth mentioning. Mustachio's is the most fail of them all, tourist trap!
me replying to a comment from Josh / April 22, 2013 at 02:53 pm
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why does it matter whether the owners are italian?
Franca / April 22, 2013 at 02:55 pm
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The best panino places are the ones with Italian Nonnas cooking in the back, may be hard to find downtown but very common in north York and vaughan
Juliana / April 22, 2013 at 02:57 pm
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Because they grew up with the food and have hand passed down recipes from the old country
Madonna / April 22, 2013 at 02:58 pm
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Because Italians do it better
Scott / April 22, 2013 at 03:10 pm
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There is something to be said about authenticity of a food, yes we can go online or pick up a cook book and learn to make whatever we want. But when someone have been eating and making the same food for the last 50 years it shows.
Nonna Laughs Atchoo / April 22, 2013 at 04:50 pm
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lol at worrying about "authenticity" for Italian-American cuisine. Get a clue poseurs, your grandma in the old country isn't making Brooklyn pizza or meatball sammies. Anyone trying to upsell you on authenticity is blowing truffle-oiled smoke up your ass.
Steve / April 22, 2013 at 05:08 pm
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Toronto has a huge italian population and the majority of them came here in the 1960's. unlike other parts of North America you can actually find authentic italian cuisine in toronto
Franca / April 22, 2013 at 05:15 pm
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Like I said are you are not going to find an italian nonna making panini's or pizza in the downtown core but if you hispters were to venture to north York, woodbridge, maple, thornhill you would see real italian Nonnas making these panini's. like someone said panini's at Weston and 7 is a perfect example
Kasual / April 22, 2013 at 05:32 pm
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Honestly, this place is right across the street from Bitondo's, meaning I have never and would never go here for a veal sandwich. Bitondo's has one of the best sandwiches in the city. The pizza on the other hand... get it well done.
Italian Nonnas... / April 22, 2013 at 07:29 pm
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Give better handjobs than make food, it's a well-known fact.

(oh, and they give LOUSY handjobs. Really oily)
Sad but true replying to a comment from Italian Nonnas... / April 22, 2013 at 08:31 pm
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You know the old saying: lousy with the lamb, lousy with the reacharound...
Laura / April 22, 2013 at 08:33 pm
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The Coxwell location is WAY better.
Lick a dick / April 22, 2013 at 08:42 pm
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Honestly blog to you are twats, leave the nice people of San Francesco alone they want no part of your wana be cool/ hipster expectations. There pizza slices are great and lots of family's and places in the area really enjoy it . Leave these kind of places alone, stick to queen west, college or Ossington.
Lick a dick / April 22, 2013 at 08:42 pm
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Honestly blog to you are twats, leave the nice people of San Francesco alone they want no part of your wana be cool/ hipster expectations. There pizza slices are great and lots of family's and places in the area really enjoy it . Leave these kind of places alone, stick to queen west, college or Ossington.
Sarah / April 22, 2013 at 11:27 pm
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Absolutely love their spaghetti with meat sauce and sausage! No added salt, all delicious comfort food. The best affordable delivery in the neighbourhood (Coxwell).
Jess / April 22, 2013 at 11:55 pm
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If you want a kick ass veal sandwich in Mississauga, the place to go is Marconi Pizza
(3635 Cawthra Rd, Mississauga, ON)!! Their sauce is so good folks buy it to take home. It's hands down the best. But my all time fave is their sausage sandwich. It's outta this world!
pe / April 23, 2013 at 04:19 am
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Can we get confirmation on whether the new owners are Italian or not?
AA / April 23, 2013 at 09:31 am
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California Sandwiches is not better than San Francesco. Sorry!
Ursulass replying to a comment from AA / April 23, 2013 at 09:48 am
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Deluded people should always be sorry, all the time. California is LIGHT YEARS BETTER! Rinse yourself.
Ralf replying to a comment from AA / April 23, 2013 at 01:54 pm
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California Sandwiches is king. Don't speak nonsense. Especially now since San Francesco is under new (apparently, shitty) ownership.
Anne Veal / April 23, 2013 at 10:47 pm
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Anyone know if it's still cash only??
AA replying to a comment from Ursulass / April 24, 2013 at 09:16 am
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I'll "rinse" myself by saying this... California Sandwiches varies depending on location... For instance, the Veal Sandwich you get at the Dufferin location is a joke compared to what you get at Claremont. For that reason, I avoid it. San Francesco is consistantly good; be it on Coxwell or on Clinton (IMO). Now, I haven't been to the Clinton location in a while (since the new seats), as I now live in East York. But I'm glad there's a San Francesco close (on Coxwell).
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Lui / April 25, 2013 at 03:41 pm
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Only saving grace is the veal sandwich,rest are below average fake italian food.They really need to renovate,add some more pasta dishes and more training.News owners need to learn to treat the paying customer with friendly service not a grunt.
Drummond replying to a comment from Lui / April 25, 2013 at 04:54 pm
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What do you expect from rubes? A grunt took almost all their brainpower to emit. I go to California where real people make great sandwiches. End of story.
me / May 27, 2013 at 12:33 pm
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who cares if they're italian? the important point is whether they make good food. i've seen lots of 'authentic' places with a whole range of staff making the dishes in the kitchen.
Arthur Daley / June 7, 2013 at 10:18 am
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San Francesco's was one of the first. And by the late 80's had a large number of locations in the GTA. Dufferin and Finch (still there), one on St. Clair West (Corso Italiano), Yonge & Steeles, Bathurst & Queen were the ones that I knew as well as the Clinto Street original. As someone else wrote as a part of Toronto's history (the first mass seller of Italian sandwiches) someone should write the story of this company.

I first tried them in '74 became a regular in '82. Then moved far, far away but still make trips two or three times per year.

Loved the authentic decor and feel of the place. Without a doubt it was the best Italian sandwich in town (meatball or veal).

Felt old and out of place the first time that I saw the new decor. Also now when we go, I get sandwiches from both San Fran and then cross the street and get some from Bitondo's (just to compare).

I don't think that it is what it was. Not enough sauce on the meatball sandwich for my taste but still buy out of loyalty and tradition.
Krung Thep / October 4, 2013 at 05:55 pm
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Man, I was pretty damn happy when I saw a location in the O'connor area of the old East York. I was wondering if it was going to have the same taste as the one near Finch/Dufferin. It tasted the exact same, the sauce soaked into the fresh bun and the toppings. It is different than Commisso and I'm going to see what all the fuss is all about with Cali. Moustacio's is decent but I'd take the others first. Cali here I come..
Anthony / October 10, 2013 at 05:05 am
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I moved from Toronto, to Kelowna, BC in '93 There is nowhere to buy an Italian sandwich here at all, let alone one of the taste and quality that I can still remember, I've never stopped craving the veal or steak, with mushrooms and peppers, my mouth is watering just thinking about and it's been 20 years ( I used to live a couple of blocks away from the Jane and Wilson store
JB / January 11, 2014 at 04:53 pm
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I just discovered the Finch location of San Francesco. The veal sandwich there was twice as thick as the one on this blog post, and it was only $5.50! Pizza looked great, but I didnt try it yet. It's worth the 10 minute drive to grab the best and biggest veal sandwich in Toronto.
Lorenzo replying to a comment from nuh-uh / May 9, 2014 at 10:09 pm
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Yoyo might not much of food but is future for him as comedy wannabe.

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