Ferro Bar & Cafe
Ferro Bar & Cafe is a long-established restaurant in Toronto that serves Italian fare including wood-fired pizza, fresh pasta and seafood.
The spot has sat on St. Clair Avenue West, a traditionally Italian neighbourhood, since 1993. Inside, the space narrowly runs all the way to the back alleyway with lots of indoor dining space and a bar front and centre.
The romantically lit restaurant consists of lots of exposed brick, a hand-painted ceiling above the bar and interesting steel decor. Appropriate considering the Italian word, Ferro translates to steel.
Though the pool tables are long gone, the spot used to be an old billiard hall back in the day.
It was bought by Carmen Pronesti and his two brothers who turned it into a billiard and sandwich spot after Carmen owned his own Mr. Sub in Oakville for a number of years.
Though his brothers have moved on to other endeavours, Carmen has continued to carry on Ferro's legacy with his sons who grew up in the restaurant.
Though the Charles Sandwich, named in honour of his one son and sold all those years ago, still remains, the menu quickly expanded past sandwiches and now includes a large variety of Southern Italian dishes.Upon the request of some loyal customers, they started their famous wood-fired pizzas about five years after they opened, with Carmen hauling the wood himself every Sunday.
Today, a wooden gas oven imported from Italy is used for the pizzas, giving it the same original taste.
The homemade dough is aged four to five days, making the texture easier to work with so that Charles and the other chefs are able to achieve a slightly blistered and raised crust on the edges while keeping it nice and thin throughout.
The aged dough also adds to the complexity of the flavour.
The classic Margherita Tradizionale ($15.50) comes with Fior di latte (traditional mozzarella), parmigiano, tomato sauce, basil leaves and a generous drizzle of olive oil.
Mi Casa ($18.50) is another pizza on the menu, consisting of spicy soppressata, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, tomato sauce, a combination of gorgonzola and mozzarella, basil and spicy oil.
Cheese lovers will rejoice for the fresh Burrata ($17.50) that's served on a bed of rapini, cherry tomatoes and a thick rose sauce. The creamy and soft burrata basically melts in your mouth.
Another popular appetizer on the menu is the Meatballs Focaccia ($13.95). Braised veal meatballs are drenched in a marinara sauce and baked on focaccia bread with mozzarella and ricotta salata.
The tender meatballs and oily cheese bread it comes on makes for a flavourful mouth full.
The focaccia is prepared and baked in-house and sprinkled with a mix of herbs and oil.
As Carmen is originally from Calabria, a coastal region in southwest Italy, it seems natural that a whole variety of seafood including large seafood platters and Octopus e Chorizo ($17.95) is also available.
The char-grilled Morrocan octopus is served with a spicy 'Nduja (a particularly spicy, spreadable pork sausage right from Carmen's home region in Italy) chickpea, chorizo ragu and lemon arugula.
I'm told the magic mushrooms are a must. You can get them as their own appetizer (3 pieces: $7.95, 5 pieces: $13.95) on crostini with roasted garlic cream reduction.
But they also feature in a number of dishes on the menu like the Pappardelle al Funghi ($18.95) that's served with fresh Fettuccine-like noodles, the wild portobello and oyster mushrooms, white truffle oil sauce and parmigiana.
For dessert, they make a traditional Italian Tiramisu ($9.50) in-house with espresso, chocolate liqueur-dipped lady fingers, mascarpone, and Nutella for a nicely added touch.
Well-loved yet underrated, Ferro Bar & Cafe continues to provide locals and visitors alike with homestyle dishes and a lively atmosphere after three decades in the game.