Where chef Massimo Bruno eats Italian food in Woodbridge
We're going on the road with some of the city's top chefs and restaurateurs to explore their favourite suburban restaurants. Massimo Bruno tells us what's good in Woodbridge
A native of the port city of Bari in Italy’s Puglia region, Massimo Bruno knew he wanted to be a chef at the age of seven. “I was working at a restaurant making pizzas. I was only earning about $20 a week, but I must have eaten hundreds of dollars in pizza to make up for it,” Bruno says. After moving to Toronto in 2001, he worked at his aunt’s restaurant, Seven Numbers, for four years, and then opened the Massimo Bruno Supper Club.
Bruno hosts nearly 100 dinners at his King East studio every year, each month focusing on a specific region of Italy. In most cases he serves up to 24 guests all by himself, making fresh pasta while entertaining at the same time. Although Bruno lives in Toronto, he knows Italian-rich Woodbridge like the back of his hand.
111 Jevlan Dr., Woodbridge, 905-265-9991, qualitycheese.com
“If there’s one shop I drive to Woodbridge for, it’s this one,” says Bruno. “They have the best Italian-style cheese I’ve found in the GTA.” Quality Cheese also sells a variety of imported artisanal goods including cold-pressed olive oils, dried pastas and a plethora of sauces. Bruno comes here to load up on anything he needs for his supper club, but primarily it’s all about the freshly made cheeses made from Ontario water-buffalo milk.
Go-to item #1: Buffalo ricotta.
Tasting notes: Bruno swears by the freshness of this house-made ricotta. “It feels and tastes almost like a dessert, but without the sugar.” Bruno suggests resting it on the counter for an hour before enjoying it with a drizzle of the best olive oil you can buy.
Go-to item #2: Twisted burrata.
Tasting notes: “Since its stretched and twisted, it has a very tense texture,” Bruno says of the stretched curd cheese.
Go-to item #3: Mozzarella di bufala
Tasting notes: After scouring the province for mozzarella, Bruno says that this is the best he’s found. He buys it by the case and uses it on everything from pizza to caprese salad. His favourite way to serve it is Puglia-style with cherry tomatoes, basil and good olive oil, or with sliced bresaola (salted beef). “You can find this cheese at the St. Lawrence Market, but its not as fresh—here you get it right out of the kitchen.”
471 Jevlan Dr., Woodbridge., 905-850-3240
Depending on when you go, you’ll find yourself navigating through ceiling-high racks of freshly baked Italian bread at this small shop that also specializes in cakes and pastries. Bruno goes here for one thing and one thing only.
Go-to item #1: Round loaves.
Tasting notes: Bruno uses the thick crust loaves for sandwiches, or he cuts thin slices of it to serve with salumi.
457 Jevlan Dr, Woodbridge, 905-856-4499, onlypasta.ca
At his tiny Italian emporium, owner Dominic Pede has been churning out freshly made pasta for over 25 years. These days, he cuts nearly 7,000 pounds of pasta each week in all shapes and sizes. Bruno heard about Pede’s operation years ago, and he’s been obsessed ever since.
Go-to item #1: Lasagna.
Tasting notes: “There’s a certain freshness you can taste in the pasta here. It also tastes very light—it doesn’t make you want to take a nap right after you eat.”
Sapori Italiani Manica Luigi Ltd.
120 Carlauren Rd, Woodbridge, 905-264-1786, saporiitaliani.ca
This tiny mom-and-pop shop is Bruno’s favourite spot for cured meats. Owner Luigi Manica hails from the Italian region of Crotone, where he operated the family curing shop for 20 years. At Sapori, the fourth generation sausage maker and his wife, Maria, make a vast assortment of Italian salumi, cured olives and cheese products. Bruno recommends visiting on Thursdays and Fridays for the fresh sausages.
Go-to item #1: Salumi.
Tasting notes: Sapori makes different regional styles of cured meats. Bruno’s favourites include the signature soppressata, the cacciatore and the hot Calabrese with fennel.
Go-to item #2: Cured olives.
Tasting notes: “There are so many different kind of olives here, including meaty marinated black olives and the slightly bitter green olives that Southern Italians love.” Bruno says the green olives are best enjoyed with some provolone, salami and bread. “The spiciest olives here are the Calabrese ones.”
San Antonio Seafood Market
8383 Weston Road, Woodbridge, 905-856-2000
Woodbridge’s long-standing seafood market boasts one of the best selections of imported seafood, from all corners of the Mediterranean. “I’ve never seen a seafood selection like this in downtown Toronto,” Bruno says. He also has a thing for oysters and always enjoys a quick snack of them while shopping here.
Go-to item #1: Seafood.
Tasting notes: Bruno visits San Antonio when he wants whole fish for his supper club. According to Bruno, the best time to visit is in early spring when the selection is at its peak.
Go-to item #2: Oysters.
Tasting notes: Bruno loves the market’s oyster bar. “Every time I visit, I have to pause for a plate or two of oysters,” he says. During our visit, Bruno enjoyed a fresh shipment of P.E.I. varieties: Daisy Bay and Pickle Pint.
Ciao Roma Pizza
28 Roytec Rd. #12A, Woodbridge, 905-264-2121, crpizza.ca
Bruno discovered this pizza-by-the-weight restaurant while he was exploring the neighbourhood a few years ago, and now eats here once a week. “The owner sponsored a pizzaiolo from Rome to come here and cook the pizzas; you can tell by the taste that it has a lot of heart and soul,” Bruno says. “There are many different styles of pizza in Toronto but no real Roma-style, so this is my go-to for it.”
Go-to item #1: Assorted pizza squares.
Tasting notes: Massimo favours the Calabrese pizza which is topped with green olives, banana peppers and hot salami.
Go-to item #2: Arancini.
Tasting notes: Ciao Roma’s meat-stuffed rice balls are cooked in-house daily. With cheese, ragu and vegetables, each one is a meal in itself.
125 Hawkview Blvd., Woodbridge, 905-553-0151, porcello.ca
One of Bruno’s favourite restaurants in Woodbridge is this place that specializes in southern Italian cooking and great sandwiches.
Go-to item #1: The O.G. Porchetta.
Tasting notes: This sandwich hits every note for Bruno. “It’s a meaty sandwich with good red sauce, fatty pork roast, crunchy skin and red peppers.”
Go-to item #2: The Clucker.
Tasting notes: Bruno’s second favourite is the fried chicken sandwich. Light on breading, it’s dressed with a creamy slaw and a Hungarian pepper cream.
471 Jevlan Dr., Woodbridge, 905-851-8388, sweetboutique.ca
“I visit this shop at least once a week,” Bruno says while staring down the display cases. “It’s my favourite sweet and pastry place in Woodbridge—I have to have a cookie and an espresso every time I’m here.”
Go-to item #1: Bigne.
Tasting notes: Cream puffs get the Italian treatment with a variety of fillings like frutti di bosco (mixed berry cream), zabaione (ricotta cream) and tiramisu. Bruno recommends to buy a dozen different kinds to avoid any dessert-related FOMO.
Go-to item #2: Amaretti.
Tasting notes: Sweet Boutique produces more than a dozen types of these Italian-style macaroons. Some are coated with a flavoured icing and some are stuffed with cherry and chocolate. Bruno’s favourites are the pistachio and orange versions.
Go-to item #3: Orange torrone.
Tasting notes: Sweet Boutique’s torrone—nougat that’s made with almonds, marshmallow and orange—is a fan favourite. It’s available by the piece or whole bar.
Aida’s Pine Valley Bakery
830 Rowntree Dairy Rd. Unit #8, Woodbridge, 905-851-8642, aidaspinevalleybakery.com
“This family bakery was one of the first places I discovered when I moved to Canada,” Bruno says. It’s operated by the same family behind Toronto bakery Forno Cultura. Bruno’s a big fan of their pastry, coffee and fresh bread.
Go-to item #1: Cartellate con vin cotto (fried pastry rosettes coated in a wine syrup).
Tasting notes: Bruno loves the sour and bitter flavours in this Puglian pastry. “Best enjoyed with a shot of espresso.”