Toronto’s newest Italian restaurant, Osteria Giulia, located at 134 Avenue Road, just south of Davenport is Toronto’s hottest and most difficult reservation to snag. I mean, I had more trouble securing a reservation there than I do at a three-star Michelin restaurant. You can’t phone in a reservation and the moment the reservations go online on Opentable they are snapped up. But besides this frustrating and annoying inconvenience, Chef Rob Rossi of my beloved Giulietta Restaurant on College Street, and his partner David Minicucci have another venture and winner on their hands.
The space’s aesthetic is very appealing, minimalist, with a clean attractive sophisticated palette. Natural blond oak wood tables, hardwood floors and creamy fabric, and travertine walls, with seductive dim recessed lighting, and beautiful light fixtures with jazz music playing in the background provides a zen chic decor. If you are seated near the back of this narrow restaurant you can see through a small exhibition window the buzz of the busy kitchen.
Details don’t go unnoticed, like the servers’ custom-made aprons, or the shirt buttons that spell GIU. Every menu cover is unique and machine stitched. But what is most memorable is the food.
The daily in-house baked bread with Ligurian olive oil is some of the best bread I’ve had in Toronto, but don’t fill up on that because you need to also try the focaccia di recco, which is a flatbread that originated in the 12th century in the town of Recco. Baked in handmade copper pans, they use local stracchino cheese and thinly stretched unleavened dough, and simply serve it with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. The charcuterie plate with salume tipico is also done well. We found the crudo di ricciola, a yellowtail tuna with black truffles, celery, and apple to be extremely fishy, and so they replaced it with a creamy burrata con caviale, with honey and olive oil. We also tried a wild grilled calamari with capers, oregano, and lemon. Our server Ashley was friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful in making our selections.
We loved all our pasta dishes. The ravioli al’ uovo, stuffed with ricotta and egg yolk, pregiato black truffle, and brown butter is sinfully divine. The pasta with rabbit ragù al bianco, leek soffrito, and parmesan Reggiano is delightful. The spaghetti con cozze with Salt Spring Island mussels, saffron, white wine, and tomatoes was enjoyed by our dinner companions. The one dish we thought was a little weak was the lobster risotto. We didn’t have any room left to try any of the proteins at this visit, but they offer fish, seafood, lamb, and sirloin. The restaurant believes in using seasonal produce, so the menu will change three to four times a year.
Take it from someone who visits Italy every summer, Italian desserts are not a focus of the kitchens there, you are better off sticking with fresh fruit or gelato. But at Osteria Giulia, the desserts are definitely not an afterthought. The cioccolato e ciliegie is a dark chocolate, hazelnut, and morello cherry pastry that looked and tasted more French than Italian. The same for the millefoglie al pistachio, a pistachio and raspberry mille-feuille. Ashley also treated us to some wonderful chocolate biscotti that were David approved (my husband considers himself a biscotti connoisseur).
I was impressed that plates were changed often and napkins were replaced when you got up from your table.
There is a 300 plus variety of wines focusing primarily on Italian vintages. The cocktails are well done, playing on classics with a modern twist.
I am thrilled to see another great dining experience in the Yorkville area of Toronto. Keep them coming.
This place could become a perennial favourite, if I could only get a reservation.