Jamie’s Italian ★★½
3401 Dufferin St., 416-238-7450
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Introducing: Jamie’s Italian, Jamie Oliver’s first North American restaurant, at Yorkdale Mall
Every chef could take a lesson from Jamie Oliver, whose blond quiff and penchant for finishing every recipe with a drizzle of olive oil have borne an empire of 60-plus restaurants. This, his first in North America, is far superior to the average shopping mall pasta joint, in large part because he smartly partnered with the King Street Food Co., which runs the upscale Bucas.
In the barnboard-and-subway-tile dining room (amazingly intimate given its 280-seat size), crisp thin-crust pizzas (pictured above) come with fior di latte, free-range eggs, wild mushrooms and other premium toppings. An appetizer of fennel-pork meatballs in an incendiary arrabbiata sauce would do any nonna proud, and pastas, house-made daily in the open kitchen, are properly al dente—and suitably comforting after hard hours of shoe shopping. Rustic desserts—tiramisù with orange zest–flecked mascarpone, or a dense, intensely chocolately brownie with vanilla gelato—are big enough to share, especially after all those carbs. At the front, there’s a long marble bar where packs of moms sip Jamie-branded cocktails and wait, in vain, to spot the man himself.