Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mangia, Bevi, and Be Merry

I posted this on a Toronto food blog on Friday, January 9, 2009.

"How did you ever find this place?” everyone always asks me when I take them to Mangia & Bevi. The restaurant's mailing address is on King, but the authentic Italian eatery can only be accessed either from inside the Ontario Design Centre or through an inconspicuous, almost hidden entrance on Ontario Street. Luckily, a savvy friend of mine who works in the Toronto Sun building across the street let me in on the secret.

Eleonora Caldato, Federico Caldato, Rachel Winston

Mangia & Bevi is co-owned by brother and sister duo Eleonora and Federico Caldato who are from Treviso just north of Venice, Italy. They grew up surrounded by good food, both at home and in restaurants owned by friends and family, and as Eleonora says, “It is a culture of food in Italy. Everybody is into it . . . it’s part of who you are.” They both had careers outside of the food industry when in Italy and didn’t consider opening their own place until coming to Canada.

After arriving in Toronto, Eleonora attended George Brown College where she completed the Culinary Management program and immediately began working in catering, eventually running her own business that served prestigious clients such as the Italian Trade Commission and the Italian Chamber of Commerce. After building her reputation for 10 years, it felt like a natural progression to open a restaurant along with her brother in the King Street East area just a short walk from her alma mater.

Mushroom Soup

Eleonora and Federico opened Mangia & Bevi in March 2005 as a breakfast and lunch place with only themselves on staff and a small menu of about 20 items, including sandwiches, salads, sweets and coffee. Eleonora cooked while her brother took care of front of house. Amazingly, the chef was 6 months pregnant at the time of opening and kept working until the week before her daughter was born. Without taking any maternity leave, she returned and with the help of her family carried on cooking while her newborn baby slept in the restaurant’s office, breathing in the aroma of her mother’s delicious food.

As the years went on, they gradually added more items to the menu, including antipasto, thin-crust pizzas, and pastas, and extended their hours to include evenings and Saturdays while also providing catering services for meetings and parties.

Insalata Bresaola

Vibrant antipasto platters, available at both lunch and dinner, are a mix of high quality imported items, including prosciutto di Parma, bufala mozzarella, and gorgonzola and local ingredients such as vine-ripened tomatoes and mixed greens.


For entrees, there are 24 varieties of thin-crust pizza that vary from simple ones like the Marinara with fresh tomato sauce, garlic, and basil; to the Atene that is a combination of black olives, anchovies, and red onions with an egg on top that makes for a oozy, delicious mess when cut into. The time elapsed between the oven and table is mere seconds so the pizzas arrive almost too hot to touch, with a wafer-thin crust that is both tender and crispy. After devouring more pizzas at Mangia & Bevi than I care to admit, I must say my favourite is the Burina topped with tomato sauce, chunks of sausage, thick cubes of pancetta, garlic, oregano, and mozzarella cheese.


The pasta selection is small, but excellent with the most popular being the Ragu made from top quality ground veal and pork from St. Lawrence Market. This Bolognese sauce remains true to its roots by being light on tomato but full of savoury flavour. They make it in small batches to preserve quality, so it's not always available. The Affumicata with tomato sauce, sausage, and smoked provolone is also brilliant.


For dessert, tiramisu made according to the Caldatos' mother’s recipe and exclusively with Galbani mascarpone from Italy is not to be missed. It’s light, smooth, cool, and boozy with a portion size small enough to allow for a few bacetti on the side. Bacetti, “little kisses” in Italian, are bonbon-sized dark chocolate-covered ice cream treats made by Gelati De Luxe in Woodbridge.


While many restaurants in the city are closing, Mangia & Bevi is flourishing, likely due to their quality and affordability. They are currently looking for a new location in the same neighbourhood in order to expand without leaving their loyal clientèle behind. Until then, step through the barely marked door on Ontario Street to enjoy some exceptional Italian cuisine.

Mangia & Bevi
260 King Street East (entrance on Ontario Street)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Second brunch and counting at Mildred's Temple Kitchen

Biscuits and Scones at Mildred's Temple Kitchen

To celebrate my dear friend Michael's birthday and to wish him well on his pending move to the States, we got together for brunch at Mildred's Temple Kitchen. This was my first time back since the preview brunch in November and the place was bustling.

As at Mildred Pierce, they do not take reservations for brunch, so it's best to get there early. There is a coffee bar set up facing the vestibule that separates the "waiting room" from the dining room, so we didn't see the hordes of people chomping at the bit while we lingered over drinks and conversation. Many apologies to you all.

Salade Lyonnaise at Mildred's Temple Kitchen

I had a dinner plans at Le Select Bistro that night, so I was slightly on the conservative side and ordered the Salade Lyonnaise. It's a frisee salad with small bits of bacon; lots of sauteed wild mushrooms; and a nice, runny fried egg. As usual we also had biscuits and scones with butter and homemade preserves.

Huevos Monty at Mildred's Temple Kitchen

I also got to see the Huevos Monty for the first time. I usually order the Veda's Choice, so I had never had it before except when my talented friends Diane and Dennis made it at their house from the Out to Brunch cookbook. I stole a little taste from Liana's plate and it was delicious.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Anyone notice that Winterlicious is enormous this year? I counted 149 restaurants. I guess we can thank the economic slowdown. Best of luck to those places who are charging $45 for dinner. I've cooled off of Winter and Summerlicious over the past couple of years, but a really good place to go is beerbistro. The food is excellent, the portions are generous, and they've kept their prices low ($15 lunch; $25 dinner).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Temptation by Chris Klugman at The Rosedale Diner

Chris Klugman

On Tuesday, I was happy to attend the opening reception for Chris Klugman's photography exhibit at The Rosedale Diner called Temptation. For this show, Chris took colour photos of female models with fruit and flowers, rendered them in black and white, coloured parts of the photos manually using an image editor, and printed them on canvas. The effect is beautiful and the colour accents are skillfully painted.

In attendance were the fun people from All the Best Fine Foods where Chris is the consulting chef. Executive Chef Olivia Bolano, Sous Chef John Danner, and COO Sue Bowman were all there helping Chris celebrate. I also got to meet Maia Filar, journalist and daughter of the owners of The Rosedale Diner. She is a trained chef and has written many pieces on food for City Bites and the Toronto Sun among many others.

I got to try All the Best's new flavours of cheese straws, beautifully packaged with product photography by Chris. In addition to the classic Sesame & Cheddar ones, there is now Lemon, Cracked Pepper, Reggiano and Herbed Chevre & Walnut. I love the Lemon, Cracked Pepper, Reggiano. Chris very generously gave me some boxes to try and I'm ashamed to admit they are now all gone.

Chris' show is on until February 1st in the front part of the restaurant, so you can enjoy a meal at this long-time Toronto institution and some beautiful photos at the same time. If you are interested in purchasing a print, you can find Chris' contact information here: