What's the vibe:

Jon Vettraino and Jason Romanoff, the pair behind the popular Parkdale restaurant the Commodore, which closed last year, have teamed up again for Viaggio. While seafood was the name of the game at the Commodore, their new restaurant focuses on contemporary Italian fare, drawing inspiration from Vettraino’s heritage and travels around the Bel Paese.

Viaggio takes over the Dundas West space previously occupied by Branca, and the team have left much of its cozy, rustic decor unchanged. While Branca’s warm wood panelling and exposed brick accent walls remain, the palm-leaf wallpaper has been replaced with a fresh coat of deep blue-green paint and modern, dome-shaped light fixtures have been added. Diners are slowly discovering the intimate space, which lends itself well to date nights and relaxed dinners.

What to drink:

Prior to opening, Viaggio’s owners went on a culinary trek to Italy to find inspiration for their food and drinks programme. It’s therefore no surprise that the restaurant’s cocktails have Italian flare, with tipples like the Vehr/Moot & Tonic (Otto’s Vermouth, Balsazar, Bruto Americano and Fever Tree Tonic) paying homage to the county’s aperitif culture.

The cocktail menu is short and sweet, as is the list of local and Italian beers. Wines, too, are mainly Italian to complement the food menu. There’s also a mocktail menu, which we can see being particularly popular come “Drynuary.”

What to eat:

The menu sees Vettraino putting his own spin on Italian favourites from different regions, with an emphasis on Northern Italy. Vettraino says that Northern Italian cuisine often incorporates influences from neighbouring countries, making for unexpected ingredient combinations. The pan-seared rainbow trout con jota, served on a delicate stew of cannellini beans, potato and sauerkraut is one such example, featuring ingredients that trickled down from nearby Austria.

The Jewish Quarter Artichokes sees fried artichoke hearts served atop a velvety bed of tonnato sauce for a satisfying crispy-creamy contrast. We also loved the ultra-buttery snow crab tagliatelle, topped with honey mushrooms and edamame. Beautiful sauces abound at Viaggio, so we recommend ordering a plate of their house-baked focaccia for mopping up every last bit – there’s actually a technical term for this in Italy (fare la scarpetta), so we think this makes it socially acceptable.

Dinner and drinks: around $100

1727 Dundas St W., 416-519-8165; viaggiorestaurant.ca