San Francesco v.s. California Sandwiches
Somewhat hidden in the neighbourhood just south of the main drag of Little Italy between Euclid and Grace on College St. are two of Toronto’s renowned veal sandwich shops.
Historically speaking, I heard people would travel from all over the city to have a taste of a San Francesco veal sandwich. Years and several owners later, San Francesco’s can no longer rely on its name to attract customers. These days the sandwiches produced at this covenience store-cum-take out restaurant are medicore at best. A flat piece of meat, adorning a less than fresh bun with a smattering of runny sauce does not constitute the famous meal I was convinced of in my youth.
These days I would much rather travel into the heart of the neighbourhood to seek out the hidden gem of California Sandwiches. With several spinoffs located throughout the city, the original California’s located one block north of Dundas on Claremont can rightfully claim the title of “Best Veal Sandwich in Toronto”. Sandwiches are cooked fresh and there are several toppings one can add, including different degrees of hot peppers and my favourite: a breaded piece of eggplant. It would be nice if California’s were open Sunday , so there was an easily accessible restaurant in the area to supplant any Sunday evening cooking. Alas, in this relatively Catholic area the Sunday shopping rule still seems in effect.
Late Night Pizza
One of my favourite pastimes is to disregard all of the self-imposed dietary restrictions I place on myself during the day, and indulge in a late night pizza snack following a debaucherous night of drinking. My favourite city to do this in is Montreal , as that city boasts a plethora of extremely cheap ($1 or less!) pizza joints that satisfy those late night desires. My favourite jaunt was definitely 1+1 (or what I referred to as Une plus Une) on St. Laurent just south of Avenue des Pins which served up a tasty slice for $1 plus tax.
Toronto has it’s own calibre of late night pizza joints that offer a far greater variety than their Montreal counterparts if not nearly as reasonably priced. Let me say upfront ,so you understand my tastes, that for these late night ventures my ultimate slice of pizza consists simply of pepperoni and cheese with my own generous additional sprinkling of hot red pepper flakes:
For a little while I was on a big Amato’s kick. With several locations around the city (St. Clair West, Yonge just south of College, Queen West and College West) Amato’s really caters to the downtown crowd. With a huge variety of slices Amatos definitely covers the gambit as far as tastes are concerned. And the pizza is pretty tasty too. However at $3+ a slice this “snack” turns more into the second dinner I shouldn’t be eating at 2 a.m. just before bed.
Located at Harbord and Spadina, Cora Pizza was one of the first “underground” restaurants I was exposed to as a teenager. University of Toronto students would boast about being the only ones in the city to know about this fabulous spot. That feeling holds as you enter and notice the display of photos of seemingly regular customers adorning the wall. The pizza itself is ok but too doughy for my liking. Haven’t been here much lately as it is too far north for my post-drinking downtown crawls.
Isn’t this the McDonald’s of pizza? Why even review this generic, ghastly decorated joint? Well, I admit it. Pizza Pizza is one of my guilty pleasures of an already guilty pleasure! Like I said, my favourite slice is the simple pepperoni with tons of hot pepper flakes and in-store Pizza Pizza is still one of the best for it. Though I enjoy the slice, the garlic dipping sauce is one of the most nauseating things I have ever smelled or eaten.
Located at the corner of College and Clinton, John’s is the closest to what I’ve been looking for since returning from University in Montreal. It also helps that it is a 3 minute walk from my apartment (much like 1+1 was in Montreal). With a limited variety of slices, John’s serves up a nice thin crusted pizza with all the right trimmings. I have twice been here where I was offered a second slice absolutely free. The pizza itself is quite tasty and is the perfect size to fill your aching belly before drifting off into sweet, sweet, drunken sleep.
Reviewed by Aaron
504 Bloor St. W.
661 College Street
Ghazale is BY FAR, my favourite Middle Eastern restaurant in the city. The food is “to die for”. Only contains six seats, no tables, but the food is so good, so cheap, and such fast service. Specializing in Middle Eastern dishes, this place is known in Toronto as the place to go for fast, tasty Middle Eastern take out food. They only accept cash (no Interac or VISA/Mastercard) since there are so many customers. It makes things more efficient when cash is the only thing accepted.
Located right in the heart of the Annex near Bloor and Bathurst, this Middle Eastern dive has the best Mediterranean food in Toronto, I swear! The display of food is gorgeous, colourful, always fresh and inviting. Staff are very knowledgable of its contents and vegetarian and non-vegetarian food are separated in two different sections. I always order the same two items: one extra-large vine leaf stuffed with chick peas and rice, quite nutty and flavourful and the vegetarian mousaka, a scrumptious medley of sautéed eggplant, chick peas, onions, peppers, zucchini, stewed tomatoes and spices. Meals are less than $5.00 and there is a wide selection canned soft drinks ($1.00). There are lineups throughout the day. Second location opened recently at College near Grace in Little Italy.
The Annex location is open everyday from 10:00am-4:00am
503 College St.
phone number: 416-323-3957
Xacutti opened up with a lot of fanfare as being the new “Indian Fusion” trendy dinner place on College. I heard that it was only OK for dinner and admittedly have never been. However; based on their brunch I would be more than inclined to try it out. I am a big fan of Indian food (well mostly North Indian food at this point) and to incorporate those flavours into brunch is extremely appetizing for me. Recently, I have been doing that myself by sauteeing onions in a madras curry paste and then including them with chorizo in a fritatta. Xacutti though, is the real deal. With your typical minimalist, trendy decor Xacutti attracts a definite hip College St. style crowd. The prices are definitely NOT on the cheap side but for the quality you receive it is well worth the price. The menu is varied and interesting, but both times I have been there I have stuck with the same meal: the cheesy french toast. I am not usually a fan of french toast or pancakes in restaurants as I get a little sick of the sweetness by the end of my meal but this french toast is all savoury and no sweet. Served on a bed of tandoori-style homefries and a mixed-green side salad, this ranks as one of my favourite brunches in all of Toronto. Hopefully on my next visit I will be able to review another selection from the menu.