Local Kitchen and Wine Bar, Toronto

There are so many people jumping on the “locavore” bandwagon nowadays that the movement has lost some of its hipster eco-cachet. Even so, it’ll take more than a few poser Loblaws commercials to kill the concept altogether, especially in Toronto’s trendy Parkdale neighbourhood. But Local Kitchen and Wine Bar is not an attempt to cash in on a passing fad; there’s a real commitment to localism, not just in the restaurant’s cuisine, but also in its design, hospitality, and everything in between.

Michael Sangregorio who co-owns Local with chef Fabio Bondi defines the restaurant’s concept as three tiered: “local, almost local, and our parents’ local.” Despite being Italian in heritage, at heart the spot belongs to Parkdale. Walls are made up in historical pictures of the neighbourhood culled from the Toronto Archives (and made by a local artist) and a clothesline boasts clothes and conversation pieces from the restaurant’s customers. “We may own the place,” says Michael. “But the community runs it.”

Local isn’t meant to be a destination spot; instead it’s an attempt to recreate the comfortable, laid-back vibe of a North American pub, but in the context of an Italian wine bar. With only 29 seats, a boar’s head over the door, and plastic pop crates mounted on the walls as wine racks, no one’s going to call the place pretentious. But unlike many of Toronto’s cookie-cutter pubs, there’s a real focus on quality.

The fare is quite simple, composed mostly of piattini (like Italian tapas). Since Local uses a “hundred mile menu”, the fare changes based on what produce is fresh and in season, but it always includes four salads, two secondis, and about three or four pastas (all homemade and served within a couple of days).

The focus, however, is on the salumi (i.e. Italian charcuterie), cured in house and sourced directly from a farm in Stratford. Salumi meat and cheese platters run for about $15 (and are served up on repurposed slabs of tree trunks), while more adventurous diners can opt for a $50 Salumi Tasting, in which the servers will “bombard” you with food.

The wine list is similarly local-minded, with about 90% made up of selections from the Niagara and Prince Edward County regions, and Mill Street is available on tap (the brewery is located just down the street). But even with the supposed “upscale” focus, the restaurant is still soundtracked by ’80s vinyl, and the dress code is more jeans and t-shirt than jacket and tie. Local is proof positive that it’s the food, not the atmosphere, that defines fine dining.

Address: 1710 Queen St W, Toronto, ON
Contact: 416-534-6700
Cuisine: Contemporary
Area: Parkdale
Venue: Restaurant, Bar
Hours: Tue. and Wed.: 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Thu. to Sat.: 5:00pm – 12:00am
Price Range: $$$ (Within Reach)
Payment: Master Card, Visa, Debit

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