Death in Venice Gelato Toronto

Micro restaurants are the latest Toronto dining trend

Rent is high in Toronto. That's a fact, like the grass is green or winter is coming. But some Toronto restaurants are finding new ways to keep serving hungry Torontonians; they're opening up inside existing Toronto businesses.

Take Death In Venice Gelato, for instance. Owner Kaya Ogruce took over the Queen Street West space that was formerly home to the short-lived Constantinople Bakery, the cafe he used to run his business out of.

Earlier this year, he also started supplying gelato to Pizza Thick in Leslieville. That's about when he and Pizza Thick decided to join forces in the massive Queen West eatery. Ogruce also brought catering company ProvisionsTO and the three businesses now work out of the space.

"We could each have our own three-standalone bricks-and-mortar shops, or whatever, but why not come together?" questions Ogruce. Call it the micro restaurant. Each business is happy to share the communal space rather than cover the lion's share of the rent.

And not only do they share the rent, but also the commercial kitchen and the ample seating area. For Pizza Thick co-owner Amylee Silva, this seemed like a less risky way to expand to the city's west end.

"I think this is kind of an interesting business model for Toronto because we're constantly seeing new restaurants not even make it throughout their first year," she says.

Bars throughout the city have separate restaurants supplying food. There's the Horseshoe with its A&W window, the Get Well with North of Brooklyn Pizza and Churchill with Almighty Bao.

Nightowl recently joined the club. Owner Braden Rubinoff wanted to beef up his bar's food program and after posting on the Food and Wine Career Navigator Facebook page, he brought Fourk's Josh Sexsmith on board.

Sexsmith, 27, who did pop-ups and private events for years, is now running Fourk at Nightowl. For him, it's much easier way to launch a sit-down restaurant. "It's something that was kind of attainable for me," he says.

Rubinoff likes that the Fourk menu seems somewhat elevated at Nightowl. There are shareable small plates, like sous vide chicken with spicy house-made mole and a nicely plated shrimp ceviche on the docket - it's not your average pub food.

Studio Bar, in Dundas West, is also getting into the food game. Co-owner Alex Ottens launched Montaditos (a restaurant with Spanish-style sandwiches) at his watering hole last night.

"It [Montaditos] was a concept that I wanted to roll out and I was actually thinking of doing it you know, getting a smaller lease, but the issue of food has always been there for Studio Bar," he says.

By keeping his brands as separate entities, he's hoping it's easier to expand Montaditos. Bit for now, Studio Bar is a testing ground.

Photo of Death In Venice Gelato by Hector Vasquez.

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