Introducing: Maialino Enoteca Italiana, a bit of Sicily at the edge of Parkdale

Introducing: Maialino Enoteca Italiana, a bit of Sicily at the edge of Parkdale

Inside the small, Patti Rosati–designed room on Queen Street West (Image: Karolyne Ellacott) 

Maialino Enoteca Italiana, the latest in a seemingly unending stream of new Italian restaurants, sits on the last strip of Queen east of Roncesvalles. The restaurant, which opened quietly just before Christmas, aims to set itself apart with its modern take on traditional Sicilian cuisine (indeed, there’s a little icon on the menus indicating Sicilian dishes). Promising no buffalo mozzarella, owner Mike Rutigliano notes that increasingly, the food from Italy’s south is making its mark on the food world—which, in the Toronto context, means giving the pizza-loving northerners a run for their money.

Housed in a former art gallery next door to Keriwa Café, Maialino’s space was designed by Patti Rosati, with touches like an antique pasta machine perched behind the bar, tables made from 150-year-old reclaimed wood and booths upholstered in a striped Paul Smith print (not in the original budget, but deemed irresistible). The semi-open kitchen is visible at the back of the room, with cured and curing meats prominently on display. Much of the prep is done out in the open, with a sous-vide immersion circulator and some induction burners behind the bar. The focal point, however, is the accent wall: covered in Italian words and phrases, it was painted by hand and pays homage to Queen Street’s graffiti.

The menu offers up plenty of antipasti, salumi and formaggi options to share before diving into the mains. Panelle—Sicilian bread dotted with sesame seeds—can be filled with either chickpea fritters or sautéed veal spleen and Caciocavallo cheese ($5). Mains include the homemade fettuccine, which is served with a wild boar ragoût, grated pecorino and a healthy portion of fresh Italian truffle ($19). The slow-roasted short ribs are bathed in a Nero d’Avola wine sauce and come with roasted shallots and potatoes ($20). And the braised rabbit—or coniglio in agrodolce—is served in a sweet reduction of Sicilian vinegar with a medley of green olives, celery and capers ($20). Meals can be polished off with some traditional dolci: lavender-infused panna cotta and handmade cannoli ($6). Judging by the crowds we saw when we visited, it seems like Maialino is already building a following.

Maialino Enoteca Italiana, 1688 Queen St. W., 416-551-5251,