On the east side of Toronto, a lot of new restaurants are popping up. Many of these areas are becoming very eclectic, redeveloped neighborhoods, including Gerrard Street, where you will find the newly opened Wynona at 819 Gerrard Street East, just east of Logan.
Wynona is from Chef Jeff Bovis of Ufficio, one of my favourite Toronto restaurants of years past. Here the chef’s focus is on Italian food again, serving homemade pastas, seafood and even a couple of meat items this time around.
The restaurant is tiny, with 30 seats inside and an additional 15 outside. I like to call the decor bare minimalist, designed in light, monochromatic colors and blond woods, including the hardwood bench seating, bare walls, linoleum floors, and simple light fixtures. The kitchen is open, and so small, you wonder how they manage to make almost everything in-house. But it still is stylish, modern, airy and bright, due in part to a large window up front. I found the restaurant loud, not so much because of the music, but with fellow diners having conversations. Perhaps it is due to the hard surfaces?
The menu had some similarities to Ufficio. Many items are still rich and swimming in butter. That is not a complaint, I happen to love butter. One thing is a must, the grilled house focaccia, and at $4, for an order of three pieces (why not an even four?) is still deliriously delicious on its own or eaten together with the hummus, heirloom tomatoes and burrata, sardines, carpaccio or any other appetizer on the menu.
The albacore tuna crudo, with cantaloupe, cucumber and mint was a weak dish for me. It was also too cooked, and tasted cured, rather than raw. Ditto, the tomatoes and burrata. The tomatoes on their own were very sweet and tasty but the burrata was a lumpy, inferior cheese quality. They serve a tight main course menu here, and the chef’s pastas mostly shine. If there is an agnolotti on the menu, I say jump on the chance to taste his delicate, tender and wonderful pockets filled with whatever is seasonal. Ours was made with Ontario corn, chives and summer truffles – it was divine. His spaghetti made with seasonal Ontario zucchini, anchovy, chili, bottarga and straciatella was another winner. Of the three pasta offerings I found his cavatelli, with heirloom tomato concassé, herbs and ricotta salata was the weakest. I guess I am still dreaming of his fluffy, pillows of gnocchi when he was cooking at Ufficio. I do wish that the chef would cut back on the amount of salt he uses in every dish.
They offered three proteins on my visit. A fish, duck and a pork chop. We went with the branzino and we are so glad we did. Cooked perfectly, and drenched in a brilliant brown butter sauce with crispy capers and olives, I was one happy camper.
They do not serve cocktails here of any kind, but they do serve local beers, and an international list of unique organic and biodynamic wines, of which, for the most part, I am not a huge fan.
We found a white from South Africa that paired well with our meal.
Three desserts on offer, a cheesecake, a tiramisu or a meringue with Ontario berries, lemon curd, and stewed sour cherries.
In a city where the standards for Italian restaurants are high, would you schlep this far for a meal? I would, but I am not sure about everyone. It certainly is drawing from the nearby community, where there is not a huge amount of good restaurants to choose from. The experience was more than pleasant and relaxed, with good food at moderate prices, in a casual atmosphere.