Introducing: The Slow Room, a coffee shop that dares to open between Lit and The Common

Introducing: The Slow Room, a coffee shop that dares to open between Lit and The Common

With new indie cafés opening in Toronto every month, it takes a lot of gumption to jump into the fray—especially if the new spot is located between java havens Lit and The Common. Yet that’s just what Roberto and Sandra Mandarino, the co-owners of The Slow Room, have done. “We want people to come for the coffee and stay for the sandwiches,” says Roberto, who hopes his menu of locally sourced food will give him an edge on java-heavy College Street.

For his all-Italian creations, Roberto applies lessons he learned from his nonna. On offer are such sandwiches as the consentino (capicollo, sopressata, provolone and red peppers) and the vegetarian “eggplant meat(less)ball” (eggplant and basil ragu). Saturday, we’re told, is porchetta day.

The Slow Room takes its espresso seriously, too. Resident barista Drew Randall is a veteran of Bulldog Coffee, who does his thing on a shiny new La Marzocco Linea espresso machine. He’s also a classically trained cellist, so it’s not unusual for him to pop in a latte-sipping soundtrack of Italian baroque.

Seating is limited in the closet-sized space, but owners are going for a friendly, cozy vibe anyway, and hoping to pull it off without depending on Wi-Fi. Accompanying the sandwiches is a modest selection of pastries, some made in-house, like the gluten-free pistachio or almond cookies ($3 and $2, respectively) and others from La Strada Bakery.

Decor is trendily vintage, with tributes to the motherland thrown in here and there (red pepper garlands and a rather ferocious boar’s head known as Hugo). With ingredients this fresh, supplies are often limited—“when we’re out, we’re out,” Roberto says—but that’s OK, because as the closed sign eloquently points out, “shut happens.”

The Slow Room, 874 College St.

(Images: Jon Sufrin)