Sofia, a larger Italian restaurant, bar and lounge in one of Toronto’s swankiest neighbourhoods oozes Hollywood glamour. Think a white grand piano on a red velvet stage, famous pop art on the walls, a cocktail named after an Italian journalist, fresh pasta, mirrors and mixed marble. The quasi-hidden space designed by Studio Munge is huge and comes with both north and south facing patios. There’s also a sleek semi-private dining area that seats 24. A wraparound David Drebin mural distinguishes the moody bar from the brighter white main dining area.
Chef Christine Mast drew on her Italian heritage to create a menu that didn’t seek to reinvent the wheel, but rather to bring traditional dishes into the modern day, keeping charm intact. Insalata di Arance ($15) is part of a precious list of high-priced antipasti that pay homage to classic Italian flavour combinations. The traditional pairing of fennel and citrus plays with proportion, more citrus than fennel, with pistachio and Calabrian olives. Prosciutto di Parma e Melone ($19) is modestly portioned but vibrant and clean. Melon balls are a little retro, but flakes of ricotta salata and fatty ribbons of luxurious cured meat create a classic flavour trio. Cavatelli is one of several house fresh pastas portioned in large or small sizes, $24/$14 for this one. Each furl of pasta is unique and comfortingly al dente, layered with porcini, greens and walnuts that create a familiar depth of flavour. A Torta Clementina ($13) joins cappuccinos and formaggio on an after-dinner menu, a moist yet light construction of clementine semolina cake plated in the most precious way possible atop a subtle basil cream.
A bar program by Nishan Nepulangoda (formerly of Blowfish) has a strong Italian backbone and speaks to the local scene, with lots of rarer scotch and bourbon like Macallan 30 Year Old and Louis XIII. There’s also a list of signature martinis. The Sorrentino ($14) is one such martini, named for a region in Italy and sinfully crushable, vodka-based with Cointreau, Cocchi Rosa, bergamot juice and honey syrup. Nights of Cabiria ($22) was conceived as an extravagance named for a festival, but has become a popular cocktail thanks to its harmony of sweet and spicy: blending jalapeno black pepper syrup, grapefruit syrup and yuzu. The D’Annunzio ($19) is named for Italian poet and journalist Gabriele D’Annunzio and appropriately showcases Bulleit, accented by Cynar, sorrel syrup and bitters. It is garnished with Australian sorrel flowers that have been rehydrated with simple syrup.
From the same massive lifestyle and entertainment company behind other greatest hits such as Kost, Akira Back and Estia, Sofia is their new it girl and she fits right in.
Reviewed by Amy Carlberg for blogTO