Restaurant review: Wynona

Wynona gives Leslieville a dreamy date night-spot with a top-notch wine selection and prettily-plated Italian cuisine.

What’s the vibe?

East enders need no longer travel west to satiate their cravings for modern Italian fare, with the opening of Wynona, a beautiful new restaurant and winebar in Leslieville. Led by former Ufficio chef Jeff Bovis, Wynona is a bright, romantic spot.

Whitewashed walls, blonde woods and Edison bulbs give the restaurant’s 30-odd seat interior an intimate, stripped-down feel. Large front windows fill the space with natural light and there’s a good-sized front patio for enjoying those remaining warm fall evenings.

Almost everything is made in-house in a small open kitchen, while bottles of wine stacked on a kitchen island and stored within a glass-fronted cooler hint at the restaurant’s impressive wine program.

What to drink?

The well-curated wine list is a major focus here, with a little over a dozen types available by the glass and around three times more offered by the bottle.
The selection is mainly old world wines from France and Italy, and there’s also an intriguing list of “contact” wines, which are a kind of cross between red and white wine. Contact wines are fermented with the grape skins on, giving them some red wine-like characteristics such as a bigger body while also maintaining typical white wine qualities like acidity.

Experienced wine drinkers will certainly find a glass (or bottle) to love here, but novices won’t feel intimidated. Even if you don’t know your chenin blanc from your sauv blanc, the staff are happy to help you choose something you’ll enjoy.

What to eat?

Chef Jeff Bovis’s seasonally-driven menu feels as clean and crisp as the restaurant’s décor – all colourful plating and zingy flavours. The menu changes regularly, but expect an emphasis on fish and pasta, along with a couple of meatier options. You could easily order the larger dishes as a main, but everything is designed to be shared.

We started with the grilled house focaccia, which had a strong, savoury char and did an excellent job mopping up the olive oil drizzled over a side plate of marinated sardines layered with slices of red pepper. The fat focaccia slices also paired well with our Albacore tuna crudo, which was seasoned with refreshing mint and cucumber.

The stand-out dish was the Ontario corn agnolotti with chive and summer truffle, with the slightly sweet corn bringing out the buttery flavours of the pasta; although the spaghetti topped with creamy stracciatella, bottarga, zucchini and chili was a close second.

It was hard not to love the whole branzino, which was liberally doused in an indulgent brown butter sauce. Done in the oven and then finished on the grill, the branzino was served under a layer of capers and olives, which added a punchy, briny flavour to the delicate fish. A simple yet zesty dessert of meringue, lemon curd and fresh berries was a light, satisfying finish to the meal.

Dinner and drinks for two: about $100

819 Gerrard St. E., 416-778-5171,