Vatican Gift Shop
The Vatican Gift Shop is a moody watering hole and music venue, deceptively hidden behind a small store carrying merch and religious accessories.
With nothing but a table and a few shelves filled with crosses and votive candles, this tiny storefront looks more like a place to buy cash-only concert tickets than the secret entrance to a spacious bar.
Contrary to its name, there aren't actually any rosaries for sale here, and pictures of Jesus are accompanied by the occasional mini Buddha statue in multi-faith fashion.
There are, however, some Vatican Gift Shop tees for $25.
But if you're here for drinks, just push past the romanesque door in the corner to emerge into a red-tinged, low-lit speakeasy serving European brews, amaro cocktails, and Neopolitan pizzas.
Surprisingly spacious, the bar has a capacity of 130 and actually stretches behind the main souvenir shop as well as the back part of neighbouring business, Little London Barbershop.
Going all out with the Roman Catholic Church motif, the place has some impressive features like a UK-sourced Sistine Chapel imitation above the bar and authentic chain lamps from a church ware collector in Pennsylvania.
A raised platform with a church pew located at the back of the space serves as the stage where live acts and a few select concert dates can perform.
There's even a confessional window at the front where you can spy on the booth next door, lending a suggestive air of papal conspiracy or penance-gone-wrong to this bar which, at best, verges on gothic, and in the worst case, is playfully blasphemous.
With an Asian snack bar and local pub under their belts, they've opted to focus mostly on being a beer hall-meets-cocktail bar with this endeavour.
A list of over 15 draught beers (ranging ebtween $7 and $9) include a mix of old-world European beers and brews from the East Toronto Brewery Collective, including Godspeed's Yuzu or Muddy York's Gaslight.
Cocktails—which are $12 each—come strong here, with Amaro being a main focus. The Ride The Cliché is a punchy drink with ginger beer, Amaro Nonino, tequila and lemon juice.
Press Play is a sour mix of grappa bottega, chartreuse, luxardo maraschino liquor and fresh lime juice.
Seven Caged Tigers is another kicky with dry gin, vermouth, Fernet-Branca and orange bitters.
And in keeping with the Italian classics, there's none other than a trio of thin crust, sourdough Neopolitan pizzas on their food menu.
More Roman-style street snacks could potentially be on the way, but for now, the menu consists only of pizzas inspired by recipes by renowned American baker Nancy Silverton's at her L.A. Italian stalwart, Osteria Mozza.
Twelve-inch pies come from the oven in options like the Capricciosa ($16) with mortadella, artichokes, olives, and fior di latte.
The San Baglio ($16) is my favourite, coming with sausage, kale, garlic cream, mozzarella, and red onion.
It's especially easy to devour a whole San Baglio pie to your face, given the perfect blend of salt and chew.
Of course there's a Margherita pizza ($13) to keep it classic, arriving with your usual tomatos, fior di latte, basil and reggiano cheese.
With strong drinks and good pizza, Vatican Gift Shop is a certified vibe without being overly curated. Plus, in a city where concert halls are in extreme deficit, it seems we've gotten the music venue we've all been praying for.