During the first week of operations for F’Amelia, a new Cabbagetown Italian restaurant owned by locals John Dawson (formerly of Table 17) and Todd Vestby, the house served over a 100 covers a night—without any press. With the restaurant’s grand opening slated for next week, we stopped by for a look at what has the neighbourhood abuzz.
It took only five weeks for Dawson and Vestby to renovate the cozy Amelia Street space, which is separated into a 68-person main dining area and bar and 32-seat closed-in porch equipped with natural gas heating to allow for outdoor service until mid-November. The walls of the former Provence Délices have been stripped of their painted glass tiles and replaced with raw oak boards for a rustic Italian vibe (only the chipped floor tiles and the wine cellar hint at the place’s former life). The private cellar dining room gives up to 20 diners a first-hand view of the pizzaioli at work, while the eight-seat reclaimed butcher block bar serves an affordable selection of wines ($38-$175), beers ($6-$7) and cocktails ($12-$15).
The long dining room’s showpiece is the maple- and applewood-burning pizza oven imported from Naples. The 3,700-pound monster is equipped with a stone bottom and cooks each pizza in 90 seconds flat (after which a charming cast iron bell is rung to call for pickup). We’re told that F’Amelia’s pizzas will eventually gain Neapolitan certification (as at Pizzeria Libretto) as they already use DOP ingredients. The restaurant has also used the oven to roast whole porchettas and expects to serve firewood-roasted chickens in the winter.
In the kitchen, executive chef Maurizio Verga(Splendido)—alongside sous-chefs James Harrison(Splendido) and Michael Angeloni(Black Hoof, Splendido)—serves mostly traditional Northern Italian dishes, using local produce (Vicki’s Veggies and 100km Foods). The menu sticks to the five-ingredient rule, with nearly everything made in-house, including the charcuterie ($18), eight fresh pastas ($10-$21) and 11 pizzas ($12.50–$22). Even the bread—focaccia, grissini and the Sardinia-style flatbreads on the cheese platter—is baked at the restaurant daily. Verga, a native of Bergamo, has trained in top international establishments (Nobu, Shumi), but he turned to his mother’s recipes for the pappardelle with braised rabbit ($15/$19) and tiramisu ($8). The largely seasonal menu is rounded out by some heftier options, like a branzino ($30) and a 60-day dry-aged rib-eye from Cumbrae’s ($34).
A final note: patrons trying their darndest to parse the restaurant’s Italian-sounding name should give up. Dawson explained that it was cleverly coined by his wife: “She said, ‘Why don’t we put an F in front of the street name?’ and I said, ‘That’s a brilliant idea!’ ”