Mela Toronto

Mela Italian Vegetarian Cafe

Mela is a new vegetarian star in the tiny space where Wanda's Pie in the Sky used to be on Yorkville (just west of Yonge). With only 5 tables, seating is at a premium. Plan to come early to snag a seat and to take your time choosing from the many delicious Italian vegetarian options.

Each wall is painted a different bright colour and the blackboard menu dominates one wall, along with cases full of organic groceries for purchase. Orders are placed at the counter and then delivered to your table when ready.

There's a daily soup ($5) and three different grilled panini. I'm partial to the eggplant one, with thin slices of very lightly breaded eggplant, tomato, mozzarella and basil. Other panini selections include seared tofu with avocado as well as a portobello mushroom one. I try the soup and sandwich combo ($8.25) and the soup arrives so hot that I manage to finish my sandwich before it's ready for consumption. The soup is blandly pleasant, but the sandwich is etheral. Rarely does eggplant exhibit such delicacy.

On my second visit, I try the lasagna ($6.89). It arrives strewn with grated cheese, ground pepper and torn fresh basil leaves. It's got some broccoli, big hunks of carrot, soybeans, and some soy veal chunks. The tomato sauce has a natural sweetness to it and I contemplate purchasing a litre of it to take home ($6.99). There's not a lot of filling (for example, no ricotta), but for lunch it's a sizable portion that satisfies.

There are also stuffed peppers, daily pizzas (I want to try the potato one next time, made with a whole wheat flour crust) and cannelloni. Beverages include fair trade organic coffee, single region origin teas, juices and San Pellegrino drinks.

For dessert, I choose the "chocolate cookie" ($1.50), which resembles a big soft biscotti with a chocolate centre and topped with sliced almonds. "I just made those three hours ago," says the chef proudly. They are very European - not sweet at all. They also have cannoli ($2.75) and, deja vu, slices of Wanda's pies ($4.80).

I can't wait for summer when the garage door window opens out onto the street and I can enjoy the Italian music and contemplate over a limonata whether I really need to go back to work.

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