What’s on the menu at Bar Sugo, Bloordale’s new pizzeria and red sauce restaurant
Name: Bar Sugo
Contact info: 1279 Bloor St. W., 416-792-1279, bar.sugotoronto.com, @bar_sugo
Owners: Conor Joerin, Michelle Pennock and Alex Wallen
Chef: Conor Joerin
Accessibility: Not fully accessible
Raised in the west end by a single dad, Conor Joerin discovered the nuances and beauty of Italian cooking by spending time in the kitchens of his friends’ nonnas. “I was often cornered by grandmothers who knew that my mom wasn’t around and insisted that I eat a mortadella sandwich,” says Joerin. “Once I realized that there was maternal love and care connected to that nourishment, I naturally gravitated to spending time in other kitchens.” While a lot of thought goes into every dish at Bar Sugo, the nostalgically casual atmosphere and unpretentious, belly-filling food creates the sense that someone’s nonna is actually behind the scenes, stirring the sauce.
Bar Sugo, which offers twice the seating of its sister spot next door, is more an extension of Sugo than a departure from it—except, this time, there’s pizza. With a wood-burning oven built out of bricks from Joerin’s former high school, the chef’s intent to honour the flavours and feels of the classic Toronto Italian spots he grew up on—Vinny Massimo’s, Pizza Fresca, Bitondo—is that much more attainable.
Plates piled with pasta, fat squares of lasagna, baseball-size meatballs and pizzas bubbling with buffalo mozzarella stream out of the kitchen like a Garfield dream sequence. Standout pies include the vegetarian Uncle Scotty, a combination of nut-free pesto, local whipped ricotta, basil and thinly sliced zucchini, and the meat-lover’s Bitondo, which tests the limits of the thin crust with indulgent mounds of bacon, pepperoni, sausage and buffalo mozzarella.
Simple, easy-drinking Italian cocktails, like negronis and amaretto sours, as well as a rotating selection of featured drinks are complemented by a wine list that is equal parts old-world Italian and new-school natural. Whether one leans toward what bartender Jack Matthews cheekily refers to as “Woodbridge or Parkdale wines,” there is a selection available by the glass, ranging in price from $12 to $15. Bottles start at $55 and cap at $150. And, while it’s a bar by name, Joerin, who himself tends toward sobriety, makes sure that the non-alcoholic beverages are done with care. Case in point: the Enzoroni, Matthews’s take on the classic enzoni, a balanced combination of muddled grape, herbaceous Seedlip and non-alcoholic Campari.
With its open kitchen, green gingham tablecloths, exposed brick, vintage boxing magazines and framed painting of Jesus, the design seems to be a contemporary take on an old-school neighbourhood red sauce spot. Whether guests are seated at the back near the pizza oven, where line cooks roll out the dough and carefully build the pies, or at the sprawling wooden bar where the pasta cooks use their noodles, the vibe is very much full bellies and full hearts.