If you read/watch the VTV blog regularly enough, you’ll know that one of Nicki’s faves is when food gives back. So, not surprisingly, when we heard the Little Anthony’s Italian + Bar re-opening was doubling as a fundraiser for Second Harvest, she snatched tix up to the reception in a heartbeat. Thus, Wednesday night, the VTV matriarch, Michelle, and I headed over to check out the transformation from old school ristorante to modern resto-bar.
Little Anthony’s new facade/signage and windows showing off the contemporary decor with bright punches of burnt orange is a welcome contrast to the greys of the Richmond and York Streets corner. So as we walked in, Nicki and I were first impressed by the updated look. The original Little Anthony’s had become, well, a little tired. But inside its reincarnation, the visual stimulation is poppy and exuberant.
We snatched up a couple glasses of wine and some of the bites of food from the new menu. The arancini was perfect; a little rice ball packing a ton of flavour with herbs like sage and rosemary. (Bonus: It wasn’t gummy as some arancini in the city can tend to be.) The whipped ricotta on crostini with truffled honey was superb. (I feel as though truffled honey makes anything exceptional.) The slow-cooked porchetta – a labour of love that takes over 12 hours to prepare – melted away on the first bite, beautifully paired with a cucumber relish and sweet and smoky jus. And the bite of gnocchi with tomato sauce was back-to-basics simiplicity.
Owner/Managing Partner Andreas Antoniou took a seat next to us on the banquette to talk about the new direction of Little Anthony’s Italian + Bar after we’d sufficiently stocked up on nibbles (and more wine, of course). His goal is to hone in on the mid-range dining segment and provide an experience and top quality plates that rival Li’l A’s high-end counterparts. To that end, the wine list markups are significantly less than a lot of by-the-bottle restaurants, the talent he’s brought in to execute the menu has five star pedigree, and details often overlooked – like how Little Anthony’s back dining section was designed to absorb about 40% more noise than the buzz of the front – were carefully conceived.
When we left I couldn’t help but think of Little Anthony’s as the Italian mirror to across-the-street Estiatorio Volos, one of my favourite restaurants in the city which was another remastering by Andreas and team. For a man whose background is finance-heavy, he’s quite the robust restaurateur.
Yes, we’ll be heading back soon to do a proper dinner service and order up meals off the full menu. I saw a butternut squash ravioli with brown butter listed that keeps calling my name from the sad, old couch I’m sitting on…
Bravissimo, Little Anthony’s, bravissimo.
Little Anthony’s Italian + Bar | 121 Richmond Street West, Toronto | littleanthonys.ca
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