The Best Italian Restaurants in Toronto
The best Italian restaurants in Toronto are about more than hastily assembled pizzas and pastas. These are places where one gets an appreciation for what results when local chefs adhere to cooking techniques passed down through generations, often via that matriarchal and nostalgic figure that oversees the idealized Italian kitchen — the nonna.
In a social sense, I suspect our communal love for Italian fare originated in the wave of post-war Italian immigration Toronto experienced in the 1950s. More than half a century later, the city's Italian roots — in both a cultural and a culinary capacity — run deep, with Italian eateries in virtually every neighbourhood.
That's not to say, however, that they're all good or even remotely authentic. And yet as Toronto's restaurant scene continues to mature, a more rustic take on Italian fare has taken hold, one that sees talented chefs tone back the flare in favour of honest, old-school food preparation. This attitude is what good Italian is all about.
Here are the best Italian restaurants in Toronto.
Note: This list was previously published in April 2009. Comments made up until December 7th, 2011 are in reference to the old list. We've purposely kept the archived comments here because we believe they (mostly) add value to this topic. If you don't want to have to wade through all of them, simply hit the "sort by newest first" link at the top of the thread.
Enoteca Sociale understands better than most that simplicity isn't a bad thing. Rustic Italian fare is often more satisfying than more polished offerings, a point underscored by one bite of a three or four ingredient pasta on the menu here. But it's also about more than that, too. Be it the locally sourced meats, the on-site cheese cave, or the superb wine list, Enoteca Sociale has Italian down pat, and Toronto has taken note. More »
Buca may not be that easy to find on one's first visit, but something about that just makes sense. It's as if one should have to work just a little bit to reap what's on offer once you arrive. As is the case with other high-ranking restaurants on the list, the focus isn't on fancy so much as honest. Everything is housemade (bread, pasta, cured meats, etc.) and everything is so very good. Meat-eaters must try the sausages. More »
Offering delicious and authentic Neapolitan pizza flash-cooked in a 900 degree wood oven, this is Toronto's best-loved pizzeria. While the non-pizza menu options might not be that extensive, staples like buttermilk calamari and beef carpaccio keep the regulars (and there are a lot of them) coming back. Add to that locally sourced meats and cheeses, seasonal specials, and a well priced/selected wine list, and the only thing to complain about is the wait times (the new Danforth location does, however, take reservations). More »
The detractors cite a lack of authenticity and whine about the rigid no substitutions policy, but the dining rooms at the various Terroni outposts around town are always full. With thin-crust pizza that rivals Libretto's, simple and well-executed pastas, and a variety of mains offered daily, Terroni has long been the city's go to for no-fuss Italian. The wine list gets points for its overall range and by-the-glass options. More »
The warm and wood-filled dining room can feel like an escape from the city if you avoid casting your eyes toward Dundas West. But even if you do, should you have a bit of Chef Craig Harding's take on homestyle Italian cooking on your tongue, it'll still feel like you've been transported to the old country in some small way. The menu changes constantly, but a few staples tend to reappear like the positively divine ragout of wild boar, tripe and spare rib. It will nourish your soul, especially in the midst of a cold Toronto winter. More »
Also known as "the Nose" (after its giant paper-mache nose in place of a sign), this casual, kitchy and unpretentious Leslieville eatery is another specialist in Southern Italian fare. Excellent pasta (especially the gnocchi) and well-priced mains ensures a vibrant, if loud, atmosphere. The wine is cheap enough to encourage going a bit overboard - a plus in my books. More »
Located on the Danforth and at Eglinton and Avenue, both offer up classic Italian dishes, no-fuss plating and boisterous dining rooms. Reasonably priced all around, one of the fixed price menu options is generally my selection. The "homecooked" food comes courtesy of Mama Rosa, the lovable matriarch who long ago opened 7 Numbers after years of bringing diners in droves to Gio Rana’s. More »
Chef Massimo Capra of Restaurant Makeover fame offers what many consider to be the best fine Italian cuisine in the city. Always prepared using traditional cooking methods, authenticity and quality is on obvious display here. No one would mistake it for cheap or even all that rustic (save for a dish here or there), but if fine Italian is your thing, this just might be the local pinnacle. More »
While the massive and award wining wine list is a draw, it wouldn't be worth much without great food to match. No slouch in this department either, this Etobicoke restaurant offers an extensive menu that ranges from the most simple of pastas to what some would argue are the city's best veal chops. Not rigidly traditional - nor cheap - Via Allegro nevertheless remains one of the premier options for Italian cuisine in the city. More »