Balsamico, Toronto

The Yonge and Davisville area has seen many restaurants come and go. These days, it seems the only place in that fickle strip one can count on as ‘being there’ is the beer-soaked locale known as St. Louis Bar and Grill. But not everyone craves a dining experience rife with mediocre wings, screaming frat boys, and foamy pitchers. Being that the neighborhood is uptown, the sidewalk is lined with yuppy couples looking for spots to park their expensive bugaboo strollers and eat in peace. As a result, the restaurants that open and close in the area are usually unexciting Italian spots, serving up the usual roster of pizza, pasta, and veal.

That being said, the latest culinary addition to the neighborhood, Balsamico, is not going to shake things up — it even has a rather predictable menu. But Executive Chef/owner, Ned Spahic seems rather confident that the restaurant’s potential for mediocrity is no concern of his. The Bosnian-born, Norwegian-trained, Italian-chef believes wholeheartedly that his food is the best; the rivalrous European is even willing to go tête-à-tête with some of the most valid Italian restaurants in Toronto: apparently Pizzeria Libretto and Terroni have nothing on the friendly but intrepid Chef Ned.

And perhaps Chef Ned’s confidence — though only built on a 2-week old foundation — isn’t entirely unsubstantiated. When I walked into the small, rustic looking restaurant, I had to patiently wait on one of Balsamicos’ maple Eames chairs — imported from New York — while Spahic planned a party with a customer. So, the nascent uptown spot is beginning to generate a little buzz. Still, the card, featuring items like Grilled Lamb Chops with extra virgin olive oil, lemon, garlic, and herbs; homemade gnocchi with pesto, oyster mushrooms and cream; veal tenderloin with oyster mushrooms and white wine; and a variety of thin-crust pizzas, seems rather 90’s and indicative of the Chef’s former position as Executive Chef at Eglinton’s Sette mezzo.

At the same time, Chef Ned is unwaveringly secure in his abilities. He maintains all his food is made “à la minute,” it is always fresh, and everything — his breads, his desserts, and his pasta — is made in house, by his own hands. Even the design of Balsamico, whose dark-stained pine banquettes, antique artwork, and aged curiosities are set aglow by natural sunlight, was done by the chef.

So will Balsamico, a spot that has little to offer except unpretentious food, be steadfast in a capricious, some might even say pretentious, city? I guess the proof is in the pudding, or, ahem, the pasta.

Address: 2029 Yonge St.
Contact: 647-348-0337
Cuisine: Italian
Area: Midtown
Venue: Restaurant
Hours: Daily: 11:30am – Close
Price Range: $$$ (Within Reach)
Payment: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Cash, Debit

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