What’s on the menu at Ricky and Olivia, a playful new restaurant and bottle shop in Leslieville

What’s on the menu at Ricky and Olivia, a playful new restaurant and bottle shop in Leslieville

Including McDonald’s-inspired snacks and boozy slushies

A spread of dishes and drinks at Ricky and Olivia, a restaurant in Toronto's east end

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Name: Ricky and Olivia
Contact: 996 Queen St. E., rickyandolivia.com, @rickyandolivia
Neighbourhood: Leslieville
Previously: Wayla Bar
Chef-owners: Olivia Simpson, Ricky Casipe and Adrian Proszowski
Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible through the back of the restaurant off of Boston Ave.; one accessible restroom in the dining room

Partners in business and in life, Olivia Simpson and Ricky Casipe originally started their food-and-drink venture so that they could spend more time together. “We met while working together as chefs at Hawthorne Food and Drink, but shortly afterward I moved on to a different position at Aft Kitchen and Bar,” says Casipe. “With our crazy schedules, we never saw each other. So, in 2016, we decided to take a break from the gruelling restaurant hours and make money by starting our own pop-up.”

Ricky Casip, Olivia Simpson and Adrian Proszowski behind the bar at Ricky and Olivia, a restaurant in Leslieville
From left: Casipe, Simpson and front-of-house specialist Adrian Proszowski

The first Ricky and Olivia pop-ups took place at Leslieville wine bar Chez Nous. Then, the couple took their show on the road to Niagara. “We were also working as chef ambassadors for Feast On, so it was part of our job to showcase Ontario-grown and -raised ingredients,” says Casipe. “We decided to set up a few pop-ups out in the wine region.” A few events at Westcott Vineyards’ outdoor kitchen turned into a summer residency, where Casipe and Simpson ran a full-scale alfresco restaurant from May to October for five years until 2023. During that time, they lived in Niagara, running their restaurant during the summer and travelling to the city occasionally in the off months to host pop-ups. “We knew we were going to open a restaurant in the city eventually, so we needed to stay relevant,” says Simpson. When the former space of Wayla Bar—which happened to be where the couple shared their first kiss—came up for rent, it felt like fate. They signed the lease, then moved in with Casipe’s parents in East York to save money.

Related: What’s on the menu at Lazy Daisy’s, the east-end brunch institution that’s now doing dinner

To make Ricky and Olivia an enduring fixture, Casipe and Simpson felt they needed something more than just their playful reinterpretations of comfort food. They brought in front-of-house veteran Adrian Proszowski, a close friend from the now-closed Hawthorne, and also decided to open a bottle shop in the front of the restaurant selling exclusively made-in-Ontario wine and beer. “Our restaurant is divided into a few distinct spaces, with the front being entirely cut off from the dining area in the back. It could have been dead space,” says Simpson. “So we decided to use what we learned about the beautiful wines of Ontario while we were in Niagara and showcase and sell them here.”

The sign outside of Ricky and Olivia, a restaurant in Leslieville

The food

Inspired by the food Casipe grew up eating, the menu revisits classic ’90s snacks like chips and dip (shrimp-and-lobster chips served with a whipped tofu-peanut sauce) and a Big Mac take on steak tartare. There’s also an elevated version of Kraft Lunchables: Casipe subs out the mystery meat and processed cheese for beef pepperettes, a house-made cheddar cheese “whiz”, bread-and-butter pickles and deep-fried saltine crackers. Larger plates include a burger and a saucy half-chicken dinner.

The twice-fried R + O french fries come with (purposely) wilted lettuce and a McChicken-inspired, mayonnaise-based dipping sauce
The twice-fried french fries come with (purposely) wilted lettuce and a McChicken-inspired mayo-based dipping sauce. $9

 

For the steak tartare, Ricky and Olivia plays with the flavours of a Big Mac, mixing hand-cut, locally sourced hangar steak with house bread-and-butter pickles, minced onion, fresh dill and lots of mayo. On top, sous-vide egg yolk, thinly sliced dills, shredded iceberg lettuce and toasted sesame seeds
For his steak tartare, Casipe plays with the flavours of a Big Mac, mixing hand-cut locally sourced hangar steak with house bread-and-butter pickles, minced onion, fresh dill and lots of mayo. On top, sous-vide egg yolk, thinly sliced dills, shredded iceberg lettuce and toasted sesame seeds. It’s served with deep fried saltines and a house-made cheddar-based Cheez Whiz–like spread to drive the McD’s energy home. $18

 

A chef at Ricky and Olivia finishes off a dish with some furikake

This punchy Cookstown Radish Salad hits some real sushi notes
The punchy Cookstown Radish Salad hits some real sushi notes. To construct the dish, Ricky deep-fries rice paper and nori, using the crunchy sheets as the base. On top goes a medley of charred and chilled spicy radishes and cucumbers that have been tossed in a sesame oil vinaigrette. To finish, some house-fermented Anaheim chili mayo, crushed Sweet Chili Crispy Minis, furikake and Japanese tobiko (which will soon be replaced by local trout roe). $17

 

PB&J chicken liver mousse

A lunchbox sandwich meets high-end French cuisine with this PB&J chicken liver mousse
Lunchbox sandwich meets high-end French cuisine with the PB&J chicken liver mousse. A purée of chicken liver, butter and herbs with the consistency of smooth peanut butter is served in a mason jar and topped with Parallel Brothers beet tahini, local honey and house-made red wine gummy bears. Mini bundt cakes are deep fried to order and plated on the side for dunking. $17

 

The Half Chicken is wet brined overnight in salt and sugar, then roasted and glazed with fermented-chili hot sauce
The half-chicken is wet brined overnight in salt and sugar, then roasted and glazed with fermented-chili hot sauce. It sits on an emulsion of hot sauce, butter and pan drippings as well as a dill-garlic white tahini ranch sauce. Fresh dill and Cookstown microgreens are used for garnish. $28

 

It might look like dessert, but this cake is made with layers upon layers of pork rillette and Hungarian-style crêpes
It may look like dessert, but this cake is actually made with layers upon layers of pork rillette and Hungarian-style crêpes. Sour notes from Kozlik’s grainy Dijon and sweetness from a reduction of Ontario cherries and berries balance out the richness. $15
The drinks

The beverage offerings include local beer, cider and wine as well as some very fun signature cocktails. The Saltini, Simpson’s take on a dirty martini, is built of vodka infused with deep-fried saltine crackers and funky olive brine, with a sweet-and-salty sesame rim. Another martini mimics the flavour of pizza. There’s also an old school slushy machine (left over from the former tenants) that pumps out a rotating selection of frozen concoctions, with booze or without. And more than one drink is garnished with gummy candy.

Related: Six of Toronto’s best dirty martinis, ranked

The Blue Raspberry slush is a summery sweet-and-sour conglomeration of blue verbena tea, Dillon’s Vodka and Southbrook’s framboise liqueur. It’s garnished with a blue raspberry gummy and a school of Swedish fish
The Blue Raspberry slush is a summery sweet-and-sour combo of blue verbena tea, Dillon’s vodka and Southbrook’s raspberry liqueur. It’s garnished with a blue raspberry gummy and a school of Swedish fish. $15

 

A person pours a glass of orange-coloured slush from a slushie machine

The Lil’ Cap—a frozen blend of house-made cold brew, fresh cream and maple-flavoured Top Shelf moonshine—is part espresso martini, part Tims’ Iced Cap
The Lil’ Cap—a frozen blend of house-made cold brew, fresh cream and maple-flavoured Top Shelf moonshine—is part espresso martini, part Tims’ Iced Capp. $15

 

The aptly named NAC is made with a mix of locally grown seabuckthorn, orange bitters, house-fermented Ontario chilies and a splash of Burdock’s Todo “Mexican” Lager
The aptly named NAC (Not a Caesar) lands somewhere between a caesar and a michelada. It’s made with a mix of locally grown seabuckthorn, orange bitters, house-fermented Ontario chilies and a splash of Burdock’s Todo Mexican-style Lager. The drink is served on the rocks with a rim of ketchup power, salt and sugar and garnished with fresh herbs and (more) gummy candy. $16

 

The Kalimotxo is a take on the classic Spanish afternoon drink, which is usually equal parts red wine and cola
The Kalimotxo is Simpson’s take on the classic Spanish afternoon drink, which is usually equal parts red wine and cola. For her fruit-forward spin, Simpson combines cola with Ontario-made sparkling red (Hot Rocket Red-Nat) and Southbrook’s cassis to emulate the flavour of Cherry Coke. $16

 

An ode to April in Toronto, Spring in the City is a balanced blend of fresh rhubarb juice, Dillon’s rhubarb gin and Traynor’s vermouth
An ode to April in Toronto, Spring in the City is a balanced blend of fresh rhubarb juice, Dillon’s rhubarb gin and Traynor’s vermouth. A salted lime rim makes the brightness beam. $17

 

The Saltini is a stirred blend of deep-fried-saltine-infused vodka, olive brine, sweet-and-salty house seasoning and sesame
The Saltini is a stirred blend of deep-fried-saltine-infused vodka, olive brine, sweet-and-salty house seasoning and sesame. It’s served in a vintage martini glass and garnished with a Castelvetrano olive. $17

 

Olivia’s goal with the Deluxe was to feature all the flavors of a deluxe pizza in a martini. To do this, she chills, stirs and strains a mix of house-made chanterelle-infused gin, jalapeno-inflected moonshine, vermouth and olive brine
Olivia’s goal with the Deluxe was to feature all the flavors of a deluxe pizza in a martini. To do this, she chills, stirs and strains a mix of house-made chanterelle-infused gin, jalapeno-infused moonshine, vermouth and olive brine. The final touch is a sprinkle of dried chilies and some edible gold leaf—just to make the whole thing that much more deluxe. $17

 

A fridge stocked with bottles of wine and cans of beer

The space

The whimsical room is decorated with original art as well as some refurbished hand-me-downs from Wayla Bar. The space is divided into three sections: a Keith Haring–inspired mural leads customers from the light-filled bottle shop into the lounge space, which acts as a perfect holding area for customers on the wait list or a cozy spot for a quick cocktail. A set of beaded curtains in the lounge opens up into the dining area, which feels equal parts ’50s lunch counter and—thanks to hanging planters made by Casipe’s mom—’70s living room.

Shelves filled with colourful bottles of wine and cans of beer

A shelf lined with wine bottles

Behind the bar and open kitchen at Ricky and Olivia in Toronto

The dining room, looking into the open kitchen, at Ricky and Olivia

The dining room at Ricky and Olivia is decked out with two-top tables, bright blue chairs and plants

Two-top tables in the back section of Ricky and Olivia's dining room

A two-top table and a couple of chairs are next to a wall designed with a mural at Ricky and Olivia, a restaurant in Toronto

A wine bottle in a crocheted holder hangs from a shelf

T-shirts for sale hang on the wall inside Ricky and Olivia, a restaurant in Toronto

The exterior of Ricky and Olivia, a restaurant in Toronto's Leslieville neighbourhood