I don’t usually get excited about restaurants located in mega-sized shopping centres, but this one is different. Jamie Oliver, the hyper-branded TV chef, is no fool: for his Yorkdale mall location, the first North American outpost of his popular U.K. chain, he partnered with King Street Food Co., the people behind the excellent Jacob’s and Co., the Saint, and the three Bucas. The relationship can be traced to a 2011 visit Oliver made to Buca, where he was wowed by Rob Gentile, the executive chef and inimitable authority on Italian cuisine. Oliver put Gentile protégé Frank Venditti in charge of his new kitchen. Once you get past the racks of Jamie merchandise and the obsequious “personal” messages from Jamie on the menu, there’s extremely good grub, to employ a Jamie-ism, including the colossal Italiano burger. I stuffed myself on deep-fried ravioli (they come with an arrabbiata dipping sauce heated by a megawatt of chili—Jamie likes his peppers), nonna-style meatballs, feather-light handmade pappardelle with fennel-flecked Italian sausage, and a beautifully crispy, fontina-oozing, black truffle–funked turkey Milanese the size of a small platter. I even found a new love for tiramisù, that much-abused classic, which Venditti remakes into an elegantly light bombe built from a dozen tissue-thin layers of espresso cake and amaretto mascarpone.
401 Dufferin St., 416-238-7450, jamiesitalian.ca