Opening a restaurant is not for the faint of heart, let alone opening one that aims to impress the worldly and spoiled-for-choice diners of Toronto. But Yorkville’s new Sofia, operated by hospitality powerhouses Charles Khabouth and Danny Soberano of INK Entertainment have endeavored to do just that with their all-encompassing new destination.
Named in honour of Sophia Loren, who Khabouth considers the epitome of sexy and cool, the massive Studio Munge-designed restaurant seats 238 inside with 110 more outside on a north-facing patio and south-facing courtyard. From the black-framed glass door entrance to the circular foyer and adjoining Taglialatella Galleries Toronto (the gallery’s first location in Canada) it’s clear that Sofia offers more than just dining—this is a space committed to art, entertainment, and design, as well.
Pass through the arched doorway towards the sleek 360-degree entrance bar and snag as seat along one of the banquettes beneath a wrap-around mural of the Tuscan hills by photographer David Drebin. Or, perch atop a lipstick-red tall stool at the bar and order one of mixologist Nishan Nepulangoda’s Italian-inflected craft cocktails. The Limoncello Negroni is a standout, as is the Cupido, which uses passion fruit juice and Hennessy VS Cognac, rhubarb liqueur, and Tito Pepe sherry, and the Nights of Cabiria, a mix of Grey Goose Vodka, Aperol, and Cointreau, all topped with citrus juices, jalapeno, and black pepper.
THE DINING ROOM DRIPS WITH SOPHISTICATION
The dining room drips with sophistication—red velvet benches perch on stunning herringbone marble tile floors, and mirror columns break up the low-ceilinged room. Besides the rotating modern and contemporary art that may include the likes of Mr. Brainwash and Jeff Koons, there is a stage on the south end for intimate live evening performances.
Executive chef Christine Mast, formerly of Canoe and Origin Liberty, is behind the seasonal Italian menu, itself matched by an extensive list of Italian wines and vintages. From spot prawn crudo paired with sweet melon and balsamic to house made rabbit and mascarpone agnolotti that float with fresh favas in an aromatic Parmesan brodo, the cooking is anchored in top quality ingredients and inspired by Mast’s Italian heritage. Meats and fish are coddled to perfection in a wood-burning oven—consider the sea bream, filleted and served surrounded by a garden of pickled Ontario ramps, capers, and parsley oil, or the succulent milk-fed veal chop that’s topped with a glistening sauce made of pistachio puree and chopped pistachios, which bursts with flavour thanks to a porcini dust rub.
“It’s a big project,” explains Khabouth, who’s also fine art collector, of the restaurant. “We want Sofia to be a one of the best restaurants but also a happening spot: How much fun would it be to come in for a meal, visit a real art gallery, and make an afternoon or evening out of it?”
A lot of fun, it turns out.
Written for NUVO by Renee Suen