Sort-of Secret: Tiny Market Co., a petite place in the Annex for handmade noodles, lunchtime sandwiches and monthly pasta parties
The sort-of secret: Tiny Market Co., a pasta shop at Bloor and Bathurst specializing in house-made pasta provisions and pop-up tasting dinners
You may have heard of it if: You stocked up on fresh pasta and sauces from Saucy during the pandemic
But you probably haven’t tried it because: The three-person operation opened very quietly a year ago
Like many pandemic projects, Tiny Market Co. started as a pastime and a way for founder Erich Mrak to make money after he was laid off from his job as a pasta chef. With a little flour, egg, and water, he’d carefully conjure up fresh pasta and and pizza dough, pack it all up under the Saucy label and send it out to hungry stuck-at-home customers.
Orders grew, so he rented space in the Tempered Room (where he met co-chef Soule), then moved to Urban Acorn (where he met Hinton-Barber). Saucy kept expanding faster and faster, so the new trio found a permanent home in the Annex.
One year ago, after a bit of elbow grease, they opened Tiny Market Co. as a working-kitchen-slash-storefront that plays home to tasting dinners, pasta classes and plenty of premade doughs, fresh pastas and sauces for purchase.
Everything starts in the back room, where Mrak, Soule and Hinton-Barber knead dough, make fresh ricotta and stir up sauces. Finished pastas move to the front, where they’re either shipped off to waiting wholesale clients (they provide pasta for Jacobs and Co. Steakhouse and Creed’s Coffee Bar and focaccia for Santaguida Fine Foods) or stacked in the store’s grab-and-go fridge.
Soon after opening last January, they started offering lunch. The menu changes from week to week, but past specials have included rigatoni alla vodka, tagliolini in a shrimp-saffron butter and ricotta gnocchi with fennel-sausage ragu. Also available: sandwiches. Currently, those include hummus toast, meatball sandos, and layers of mortadella stacked between freshly baked focaccia.
While there are plenty of classic Italian staples in the fridge—marinara, ragu, cavatelli—customers can expect more peculiar options. Recent examples include smoked salmon lox ravioli, braised duck ravioli and charcoal fettuccine.
How does the team decide which pastas and sauces to make? Easy. “We make what we want to eat,” says Mrak. “We’re very much a test kitchen,” adds Soule. “We try different things, see what works, and also just try to make things we think sound great.” Sometimes that means tossing noodles in a classic bolognese, glazing them with some miso or shrimp compound butter, or spiking them with spicy ’nduja.
Late last year, the market started hosting pasta classes, where the three tutor eager-to-learn attendees on rolling and forming techniques, then send them home with their handmade noodles.
For a handful of nights each month, the space stays open late for an intimate (we’re talking eight people per seating) multi-course meal. The BYOB affair features a parade of different pastas and plenty of snackable starters. (It’s all very ambitious considering that the team just bought their first dishwasher after eight months of scrubbing by hand.) And, come summertime, they plan to take over the block with an all-you-can-eat pasta party.