Rosina is an Italian restaurant serving up Calabrian cuisine in a cozy, colourful setting.
As the second endeavour by Domenic Taverniti, this laid back restaurant near King and Bathurst is the hip, young counterpart of its owner's more traditional Littly Italy concept, Taverniti.Decked out in playful Mediterranean tones and blue accents, Rosina provides an airy, easy-going spot for pizza and pasta in a neighbourhood where Italian restaurants tend to feel more upscale than cozy.
While you're more likely to hear JLo or Kendrick here than classical music, Rosina's food is to-the-roots. For anyone familiar with the different areas of Italy, Calabria is fondly referred to as "the toe of the boot": home to some exceptional cuisine and immense regional pride.
This latest project is an ode to Domenic's mother, Rosina, whose portrait hangs on the wall by the entrance of the restaurant, and whose Calabrian recipes are the basis for all the family's meals.
To this day, Rosina can be found in Taverniti's kitchen (according to Domenic, she feels more comfortable cooking for the old-school checkered tablecloths of Taverniti than at her too-modern namesake) making their meals by hand.
Domenic's pizzas are one of the main draws at both his restaurants, using old family recipes to place multiple times in the International Pizza Expo in Vegas.
Here, dough is made from semolina and egg yolk to achieve a thin crust that doesn't lose its shape: even after half an hour of cooling it refuses to sag and remains much firmer than the gooey Neopolitan variety.
The Calabrese pizza ($16) is phenomenal: drizzled with honey (Domenic claims he was the first to bring this trend to the city) it's a delicious blend of Italian flavours.
The touch of honey is a perfect pairing with the pizza's spread of 'nduja – a spicy pork sausage spread – the kick of the soppressata, the tang of black olives and the crispy dough.
The menu also has a handful of white pizzas for those who want to skip the tomato sauce. The Anthony ($16) is covered in mozzarella, gorgonzola and prosciutto; dotting its face are spoonfuls of sweet fig jam.
The figs are seasonal, but this perfect pie only goes to further prove the power of the sweetened pizza. Topped with curls of prosciutto, Rosina adds olive oil from Italy beneath the layers of cheese for extra moisture.
This King West restaurant is more app-heavy than Taverniti, making it ideal for date night if you feel like sharing some dishes.
The burrata con prosciutto ($22) is a delightful ball of mozzarella decorated with arugula and olives – a standard snack originating in mid to northern Italy. Served on a wooden board, it oozes creamy soft cheese when cut open.
Spiedini mini lamb skewers ($12) are the product of Domenic's Wednesday trips to his butcher in Woodbridge, served criss-crossed with a dijon mustard and cherry tomatoes.
For the utmost classic Italian restaurant side dish, there's the order of polpette ($10): a trio of housemade meatballs (60 percent beef, 40 percent pork) doused in pomodoro sauce.
And not to be missed: the gnocchi al gorgonzola ($19), which is completely vegetarian. Made from East Coast white potatoes, gnocchi comes with creamy cheese sauce, crushed walnuts, and black pepper. It's a meal that's as mouthwatering as it is sleep-inducing.
The pinot noir here was one of the best I've ever had, and served casually in short snaps glasses for the lowest-key libation ever. If you're looking for all the accoutrements of a traditional Italian eatery but in fresh, new digs, head to Rosina with an empty stomach.