Obikà, the first Canadian outpost of the Italian mozzarella bar, to open downtown in May

Obikà, the first Canadian outpost of the Italian mozzarella bar, to open downtown in May

Tasting plate of three handmade mozzarella balls

Obikà Mozzarella Bar, a new Italian restaurant opening at Brookfield Place in mid-May, is aiming squarely at a downtown lunch crowd who have grown weary of the Mövenpick Marché/Richtree Market and its attendant soap opera. Restaurateur and mozzarella enthusiast Lorenzo Sibio is behind the first Canadian location of the international chain, located in Acqua’s former home beneath Santiago Calatrava’s parabolic ceiling in the Allen Lambert Galleria.

Obikà first opened in Rome in 2003, and now has locations in Milan, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo. The restaurant combines a contemporary Japanese aesthetic and sushi bar–inspired menu with Italian artisanal products, including mozzarella di bufala from the Campagna region of Italy, where the supple buffalo’s milk cheese originated. “The handmade kneading process differentiates our mozzarella,” says Sibio. “We are going to have shipments in from Italy twice a week, so it’s really fresh.”

The menu of small plates features a selection of maki-style mozzarella rolls with fillings like Atlantic smoked salmon and arugula or prosciutto and radicchio, targeted at the carb-conscious office worker. “The presentation is absolutely gorgeous,” says Sibio. For the full experience, he suggests ordering a one-kilogram treccione of fresh, braided Mozzarella to share. Appropriately enough for this pie-mad town, Obikà Toronto will be the first location in the chain to offer pizza. “It’s not Napoletana pizza, it’s not Roman pizza—it’s somewhere in between,” says Sibio.

The interior of the restaurant is decorated in a minimalist, Japanese-inspired style, with wood and iron accents. The majority of the seating is in the atrium, which features two large communal tables, in addition to tables for smaller parties. For private gatherings, there will also be a dining room that seats up to 12.

Obikà, 181 Bay St.,