The first thing that must be said about Enoteca Sociale is that it's good. Very Good. The second thing that must be said is that it can be frustratingly difficult to get the opportunity to eat there. That's because it's so damn popular. It's a smallish place, so seats go fast. If you're planning a visit we'd suggest making your reservation about 30 days in advance. Maybe it will be easier over the next few months- they have a beautiful side patio that looks as if it about doubles their capacity, plus it's usually easier to get a table anywhere during our summer months when there's that great migration north to Cottage Country. But maybe not...the Saturday evening we went, the Saturday of the Victoria Day long weekend no less, when everybody should have left town, the patio was in full operation (and fully occupied) and in the main room the place was mobbed throughout our stay.
Top photo- pretty patio via Toronto.com
Lower photo- the small comfortable dining room via Toronto Life
Enoteca Sociale is brought to you by the same folks as Pizzeria Libretto, so you go expecting pretty honest Italian fare, and that's exactly what they deliver. Grant van Gameren, former co-owner of The Black Hoof is currently executive chef, but he came to what was already a smoothly running operation and has apparently only tweaked things a bit rather than re-inventing the wheel. (Read Joanne Kates' take on things here)
It was difficult to choose from the tempting menu (view here) which we perused while sipping a delightful prosecco and nibbling rustic pane dipped in excellent olive oil.
We settled on a couple of delicious appetizers to start and shared a dish for two as our main course. Jay began with fiddleheads, fresh local morels, lardo (chunked bacon), breadcrumbs & crotonese cheese. Bee opted for the dandelion & chicory salad, which included sauteed jerusalem artichoke, pancetta, and grated pecorino. Both were stellar.
We shared a hearty rabbit stew for two which was delivered to the table in rustic crockery adorned with a whole leg. The stew featured delicate house-made rabbit sausages and fregola (pasta that bears a visual resemblance to chick peas) with a chunky mirepoix of vegetables and a smooth rich tomato sauce. It's hard to say enough about the sauce; only in Italy have we previously experienced tomato sugo as sultry- almost creamy in texture, not a hint of acidity, barely sweet without being sugary. Bellissimo!
Our server was knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic, but knew how to keep his distance when he wasn't needed. (Or maybe it's fairer to say he was pretty busy but never failed to pay attention to us when we needed it!) We relied on his expertise to guide us in selecting a wine that would pair well with the rabbit and he steered us in the right direction. We had a lovely Tuscan rosso (Bolgheri Rosso "Poggio Ai Ginepri" 2009 DOC by Tenuta Argentiera), a delicious blend of cabernet, syrah, merlot.
Unfortunately, choosing a rich stew on a warm early summer night rendered us incapable of sampling dessert, but the espresso macchiati were top notch and they served to power us through a relaxing walk all the way home.
So, we heartily recommend that you plan a visit to Enoteca Sociale. It's relaxed, comfortable and serves up food that feels like someone's Nonna has been cooking all afternoon. Yet, beneath its down home veneer there's a subtle sophistication and even a couple of surprising twists that tells you this place is a little special. Set a date and make your booking. Then settle in for a period of delicious anticipation!
1288 Dundas St West,
Toronto, Ontario, M6J 1X7