Residential Toronto street is home to one of the city's most unique culinary hotspots
If you took a trip down a certain Ossington-adjacent street this summer, you might've been surprised to see a bunch of people lining up for pizza, milling on the sidewalk or sitting on a patio in a residential neighbourhood.
Home to a very unique dining spot in the city, Dovercourt Road has emerged as a culinary and local neighbourhood hotbed.
Unlike other more popular streets in the city that can have a certain cliche, pretentious vibe to them, Dovey (as I lovingly refer to it) has made a mark for being less showy and even campier.
This block or so is very residential, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. So what's so special about this corner? Just ask the owners and employees of these restaurants.
"I definitely think that it being off the beaten path and not on a major street is why it's a little bit unique and feels like a great neighbourhood spot," says Ryan Baddeley, the brains behind Badiali.
Serving up elevated slices with a thoughtful selection of ingredients and a specialized dough process, Baddeley tells blogTO he created the restaurant to be a family-oriented, neighbourhood spot similar to what you'd find in New York.
In the warmer months, it was almost impossible to pass by the shop without seeing a sea of people lining up. It continued for so long that Baddeley said the shop rarely opened until the closing hour at 10 p.m., having sold out of pies.
A Dovercourt resident himself, Baddeley said it's been exciting to see the strip transform from "much more than a side street between these popular areas."
Of course, his restaurant can be credited for ushering in this change, drawing customers from outside the neighbourhood, and even the city, to hopefully treat their tastebuds to a slice.
Directly beside him is Tutto Gelato, serving up rotating flavours of scratch-made, authentic Italiano gelato during the summer. Shop owner Sonia Pittis says her pizza neighbour has helped draw customers in.
"It's [a] pretty affordable [experience]. You get a pizza and then you get a gelato. It's a hidden gem and it's authentic,” she tells blogTO.
Normally her go-to customers are people living in the direct area, walking their dogs or doing errands. But as more people are drawn to Badiali's, the customer base is now a mix of insiders and outsiders.
"The whole neighbourhood is artisanal."
But it's not just the pizzas and gelatos the city is travelling to Dovercourt for.
Owners of Vilda's and Bernhardt's (and Dreyfus) Carmelina Iola and Zachary Kolomeir must also be credited for making this neighbourhood a culinary hotspot.
It started with Bernhardt's, housed under the old Julie's Cuban spot, which has been serving up rotisserie chickens and veggie-forward dishes for two years now.
Directly across the street is the couple's newest venture, a bodega-style sandwich and prepared food takeout spot Vilda's.
Drive too fast down the block and you'll miss these tucked-away spots or mistake them for convenience stores.
"With Bernhardt's across the street we're very much a neighbourhood dinner restaurant so it's always cool to see the people that come for dinner [might] also come for a cup of filter coffee and a brekky bun in the morning," says Kolomeir.
When I interviewed these owners, they all had something nice to say about their neighbours, complimenting their food and service.
No one left their counterparts out of the conversation, which I think captures the camaraderie of the street.
One such spot that was highly complimented was Breadhead and its owner Lucy Kirby. Known as the TuckShop, it dishes up pastries, merch and beverages from Thursday to Sunday.
It's not your average bakery either, known for bagel bombs (brioche balls stuffed with whipped cream cheese and chives) and zonts (croissants), which are now available in an apple pie flavour.
Baddeley said he often picks up delicious pastries for his staff in the morning as they prepare for service.
"Between myself, Ryan (Badiali), and Lucy (Breadhead) we all care tremendously about the quality of the product we're serving our guests," said Kolomier.
It's this out-of-the-way, intimate feeling that creates a certain je ne sais quoi about the Dovercourt stretch, something that has yet to be replicated or duplicated.
It goes to show that you don't need a spot on a busy Toronto street or area with incredibly high rents to make a culinary statement or neighbourhood favourite.
"When we opened Bernhardt's in 2020, Nobrega's was across the street and the Good Neighbour was still serving coffee down the street. I think we were successful and it showed people that you didn't necessarily need to be on Ossington or College to bring people somewhere. Just trust what you do and have the confidence to put that forward," said Kolomier.
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