What’s on the menu at Alimentari, a new Italian gourmet shop on Roncesvalles
The world-conquering grocery department store Eataly isn’t expected to open in Toronto until 2019. Until then, there’s a new place in the west end to grab delicacies for even the choosiest of Italian ingredient snobs. Occupying the old Hopgoods Foodliner space on Roncesvalles, Alimentari sells everything from prosciutto to pecorino, usually to take away—but you can grab a table and eat, too.
Owners Sarah and Christopher Terpstra met a few years ago in Italy, where they were each researching and apprenticing to deepen their knowledge of Italian food. Neither is Italian, but Christopher spent much of his childhood in Florence, Bologna, Siena and elsewhere in Italy, and has also worked at Buca.
The project was inspired by the alimentari that Christopher’s mother used to frequent in Florence. The idea is to create a casual, family-friendly place to enjoy the simple deliciousness of Italian cuisine (with a Tuscan accent). “It’s like welcoming someone to our home,” says Sarah.
That means there’s a plethora of Italian groceries, including olive oils and vinegars—the sort of ingredients even non-Italophiles will recognize and use all the time.
Equally familiar will be the daily sandwiches, made on house-baked focaccia (you can buy a whole giant loaf or a tiny portion, just like in Italy).
Of course, you can never have enough tomatoes. (Sarah says Alimentari uses these La Fiammante tomatoes—grown in Puglia, Campania and Southern Tuscany—because they nicely balance sweetness and acidity.)
With summer on the way, stock up on house-made giardiniera …
… and other pickled veg to complement those deliciously simple cold Sunday lunches.
You can pick up salumi and other goodies from the fridge, and in the afternoon roasted veggies and meats appear at the counter.
The specialty is the assortment of fresh pastas, such as this duck egg bigoli. Before securing the Roncesvalles shop, Alimentari had been producing pasta for the likes of Ardo, Stasis Foods and Sanagan’s Meat Locker from a space in Woodbridge.
Alimentari makes ravioli and the other folded varieties of pasta that—realistically speaking—you will never quite master at home.
Customers of Italian background—and/or fans of Italian cuisine as Italians actually eat it—ought to comb the store for gems that aren’t easy to find over here, such as non-alcoholic aperitivo drinks. Or high-quality taralli, which you may have despaired of locating in Toronto.
If you’re from one of those families that preaches pastine as a cure for everything (they’re tiny bits of pasta, sometimes made into a bland soup), here’s an organic brand for emergencies.
There’s also something quintessentially Italian about a shop selling multiple different local honeys, even if they’re not Italian. (And if you’ve ever been to a town market in Tuscany, you’ll know they adore honey as much as bears do.)
Grab the sorts of spices you’ll need to complement the other ingredients while you’re at it.
And if it’s not a focaccia kind of day, other breads come from Blackbird Baking Co..
A chalkboard advertises daily pastas, desserts and other foods, like this pork ragu, you can eat in. And because the Terpstras inherited the old Hopgoods liquor licence, you can have a glass of wine to go with it. The idea is to keep a glass of wine and plate of pasta under $20.
Just to prove this is an unfussy experience: Grab your own cutlery and water, and a high chair if you need it (Roncesvallesians do breed like rabbits) …
… and take a seat at one of the tables in this back room (which can also be used as an event space) and wait for your order to be ready so you can fetch it from the pickup window.
And if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the pasta-making magic happening in the kitchen. (Pictured is Adam Kidd, who makes the pasta along with Christopher.)
325 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-533-0004, alimentarito.com