What’s the draw
The reclaimed wood panels, which encase the dining room, the centrepiece bronze-tinted bar and the high-dangling crystal light fixtures mix old and new—precisely why Jamie’s Italian at Yorkdale is a hub for both families and millennials alike. It's what you would expect for a restaurant located outside the Toronto core - huge. It spans over two levels and includes an open kitchen and an entire second floor available for private parties. Spearheading the kitchen is Toronto hotspot vet Frank Venditti (ex-Bar Buca, Boehmer, Mercatto, Bestellen) whose elation resonates with the dishes leaving the kitchen. Soon, they’ll incorporate more of what’s local, says Venditti. For now, it’s precise—and thoughtful—execution.
What to drink
There are cocktails a plenty here. Start the meal off with a time-honoured aperitivo like an Aperol Spritz with notes of bitter and sweet orange, vanilla and rhubarb. If you’re in the mood for something refreshingly English, a classic Pimm’s Cup will do. As the meal treks onward, the wine list features as you'd expect, a crafted selection of Italian wines with some local Niagara and Prince Edward Country options thrown in for good measure. Not to be overlooked is Jamie's house wine, made from Sicilian grapes and available by the glass or carafe.
What to eat
There's a reason they are an establishment in the UK so it's no surprise that the menu at their first Canadian outpost mirrors the menu across the pond. It's simple Italian, executed properly. The cured meat plank is the first dose of what’s good. Chef Venditti has paid a lot of attention into creating balance—the creaminess of the pistachio mortadella cut by the root slaw, the mini buffalo mozzarella sprinkled with mint, and pecorino cheese resting under a dollop of lightly-sweetened chili jam. Moving onto larger dishes, it's noticeable how well they remain on par in terms of poise and lack of overall heaviness: a rustic crab spaghetti laden with capers, anchovies, parsley, lemon and olive oil (available in a small or large portion), a prosciutto pizza with a Sicilian tomato base, and a classic tiramisu made bright with a dusting of orange rind. Pair the tiramisu with an Italian espresso and bob (or maybe Jamie)'s your uncle.
Dinner and drinks for two: around $125
Yorkdale Mall 3401 Dufferin Street; (416) 238-7450; jamieoliver.com