Toronto’s demand for the old white linens type of upscale dining has been met with a huge R.I.P. These days, mannerisms are less important and being able to snap photos at the newest and hottest joints on Instagram of pop-ups turned bricks and mortar have led to a revolution of new blood on the restaurant scene.
The closing of Centro, which has been an icon of fine dining (at least in the Yonge/Eglinton area) only echoed the shift in diners’ attitude. Cue Centro 2.0 (otherwise known as Vita Sociale) which still serves upscale food but the decor makes it much less intimidating and more accessible to the average Joe.
Exposed brick, tall ceilings, shelves of canned tomatoes and large open windows make this reminiscent of a family-style pizzeria where you have Sunday supper with the kids. As the demographic of the Yonge/Eglinton area changes (used to be the place for young, thriving professionals to live, but sidewalks are now lined with strollers as young families move in), I imagine more and more restaurants will be making the switch to accommodate their younger patrons. The menu offers up a list of Italian classics such as spaghetti + meatballs and pepperoni pizza which make for a tantrum-free family dinner.
I feast on a more adult, Pizza Centro, a Roman-style pizza with a thin curst topped with burrata, chantarelles, vin cotto, basil + black truffles. The pizza tastes as amazing as it smells and would make any mushroom-lover happy.
I also try the Linguini alla Bottarga, with chillies, roasted garlic, lemon zest + cherry tomatoes. This pasta packs in a lot of heat (those who can’t tolerate their spice are warned to stay away) – however is too oily for my liking.
The second main we try is Porchetta, with roasted potatoes, fennel, broccoli rabe pesto, and grainy mustard. While the skin is perfectly crispy the pork itself lacks any real flavour until you marry it with the grainy mustard.
We end up opting for an Italian classic, tiramisu for dessert and it is an extremely dense dessert served in an ever-so-trendy mason jar that lacks any coffee flavour or resemblance to the Italian dessert.
But dinner ends on a high note as I delight in a Mascarpone Cheesecake that is conversely much lighter and fluffier than the tiramisu; topped with a gooseberry and drizzled in caramel sauce.
Service is regrettably slow though there are no shortage of bodies working the floor. While I enjoy the new space, I have to say that I enjoyed the food better when it was Centro. However, it is still relatively new and I only hope that with time, the restaurant will have a firmer grip on its new-found identity and shift in clientele.