What’s on the menu at Ristorante Sociale, Enoteca Sociale’s splashy new sister restaurant with dining room dancers and bottle service

What’s on the menu at Ristorante Sociale, Enoteca Sociale’s splashy new sister restaurant with dining room dancers and bottle service

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Name: Ristorante Sociale
Contact: 545 King St. W., 647-352-1200, sociale.ca/ristorante-sociale/, @ristorantesocialeto
Neighbourhood: King West
Owners: Kyle Rindinella, Deni Di Tullio, Rocco Agostino and Max Rimaldi
Chefs: Co-executive chefs Kyle Rindinella and Rocco Agostino, and sous-chef Emilio Pyette
Accessibility: Three steps down at entrance

Over the past 13 years, Enoteca Sociale, a snug Italian restaurant in the heart of Little Portugal, has cultivated a cult-like following. A recent Bib Gourmand award from the folks at Michelin has made it harder than ever for those craving a bowl of chef Kyle Rindinella’s bucatini all’amatriciana to snag one of its coveted 55 seats. On the heels of this success, the team decided to open a Sociale sibling. The newest Sociale is far from a (ahem) carbonara copy—where Enoteca is comforting and quaint, Ristorante is sultry and splashy.

Deni Di Tullio (left) and chef Kyle Rindinella

“Both restaurants are neighbourhood restaurants,” says Rindinella. “They just happen to be in very, very different neighbourhoods.” Ristorante Sociale leans into the King West bacchanalia: an Italian steakhouse that gets wild on weekends with dining-room dancers, a DJ spinning at the bar and bottle service.

“You should be able to go somewhere and just stay there all night,” says Rindinella. “You only have five or so good going-out hours, and by the time you’ve paid the bill at a restaurant, called your Uber, waited in a line and checked your coat, you’ve lost a good chunk of your Saturday night.” Ristorante Sociale was dreamed up as a celebratory, all-night destination that starts with antipasti and aperitifs and ends hours later when the amaro cart rolls down the aisle.

The food

“We couldn’t open a Sociale without cacio e pepe,” says Rindinella, who’s carried a handful of the restaurant’s greatest hits down to King Street. Expect to see a few familiar dishes (chicken liver mousse, arancini, focaccia and gnocchi) alongside steakhouse-inspired plates reimagined by an Italophile. This means that the half-dozen steaks on offer are cooked the way a nonno would: salt, hard sear, a lashing of olive oil and a final sprinkle of finishing salt. Even the caesar salad gets an Italian zhuzh, with romaine swapped out for radicchio and bacon improved upon with prosciutto.

When a server drops a plate of complimentary nibbles at the table, your instinct might be to say, “Sorry, I didn’t order these!” Rindinella refers to this amuse bouche of Castelvetrano olives, Piave cheese and taralli as “The Move.” It’s one of the ways Ristorante Sociale sets itself apart from the other King West restaurants. It’s not out to gouge (the prices are, comparatively, reasonable) and it puts an emphasis on building relationships with diners. “It’s a nice, sometimes surprising, start to the meal—it’s the way aperitivo works in Italy,” says Rindinella.


The ricotta crostone is a thick slice of house-baked focaccia, toasted and topped with a thick layer of whipped ricotta. A drizzle of truffled honey and some toasted pistachios finish the plate ($9). For an extra $15, guests can add a sizable amount of shaved truffles on top.


The radicchio caesar salad doesn’t hold back on the anchovies. Bitter greens hold their own to the umami-packed dressing made with garlic confit. In what’s essentially a riff on old-school steakhouses that still prep their salads tableside, the server sets down the salad and then takes a spoon to crack the deep-fried focaccia crisp sitting on the salad. $16


This plate smacks of summer: slices of albacore tuna loin (ever so gently cooked, a light sous vide with some orange and lemon zest) and navel orange segments swim together in a tangy yellow tomato purée. A hint of chili, mint and raw shallot add depth and heat. $24


The linguine vongole is one of four pastas currently on offer. For it, house-made, bronze die–extruded noodles are tossed in an anchovy-parsley purée. Joining them are plump clams steamed in white wine, garlic and chilies. A sprinkle of breadcrumbs and fennel seeds completes the dish. $32


In Rome, spring calls for vignarola, a vegetable stew that makes the most of the early goodness that’s sprouting: fava beans, peas and asparagus. Every year at this time, Rindinella does something alla vignarola; right now, it’s halibut.


Here, the flaky fish is cooked al cartoccio (in foil) with white wine, olive oil and fumet (fish stock). The delicate protein is then placed on top of fingerling potatoes and asparagus before a vermouth beurre blanc and pea purée is poured overtop. $45


In terms of sheer presence, this is the most impressive steak on offer: a 42-ounce porterhouse. The gorgeously marbled hunk of meat gets seared in a cast iron pan in a Montague broiler (which reaches 900°C), begetting an impressive crust on all sides of the steak. Once cooked to medium rare, the porterhouse is sliced and placed in an applewood smoke–filled cloche, which is opened at the table to many oohs and ahhs. For the final act of this show, the steak is anointed with Abandoned Grove olive oil.


Here’s a better look.


Rindinella got a lot of flack when he took his sticky toffee pudding, a fan favourite, off the menu at Enoteca Sociale three years ago. Now, this decadent, lightly smoky dessert’s on offer every day at Ristorante Sociale. $14


This should be renamed Schrödinger’s cheesecake: it is somehow simultaneously ultra-creamy and decadent, while also being light and zesty. The ricotta-based creation is splendid on its own, but the addition of torched Italian meringue and amaretti-cookie lemon curd pushes this gluten-free dessert over the edge. $14
The drinks

Whereas Enoteca’s wine list is 98 per cent Italian, this 50-bottle card is more international, with over a third of the list populated with wines from beyond the boot, including a bunch from France and Niagara. Guests can expect intriguing Italian bottles like a blend of red (Sangiovese) and white (Trebbiano) grapes from Fattoria di Sammontana, a small winery just outside of Florence. Alongside lesser-known grape varietals and unconventional blends, you’ll see heavy-hitter wines (barolo, amarone, chianti) all of which are made by small-scale producers you won’t find in the LCBO. Those looking to splurge might gravitate to some of the splashier bottles, like a $1,100 Dom Perignon. But there are plenty of more affordable options on offer, as well, starting at $68.

In terms of beer, they’re keeping it simple with a rotating list of bottles from Paris Beer Company. “They grow their own hops and make clean, European-style beers that pair really well with food,” says Rindinella. The short cocktail card of a half-dozen custom concoctions includes thoughtful riffs on the classics, many of which highlight Italian spirits.

Smoked Termoli, a negroni spinoff, tastes like a campfire in an orange grove. Gin, Cynar and Antica Vermouth are stirred together and served in a cloche filled with cherry wood smoke. $25
The Italian stepsister to the Manhattan is the Milano, an easy-sipping drink that packs a boozy punch. It’s made with Luxardo sour cherry gin, Aperol and orange. $17
Inspired by a Jungle Bird, the Passera is a tropical concoction made with Twin Fin Coconut Rum, Campari and pineapple juice. $17
The Cagliari (named after the Sardinian city) is a blend of tequila, St. Germain, Cointreau, Aranciata Rossa (blood orange San Pellegrino) and bird’s eye chili simple syrup. It’s essentially a piquant play on the paloma. Those craving a more Scoville-packed experience are invited to rim the glass with the pepper garnish or pop it in for an added kick. $18
And here’s a closer look at the bar cart.
The space

Once you pass through the bronze beaded curtain, reality fades away. Dancers—with an energy somewhere between White Lotus and Cirque du Soleil—chassé through the dining room in surreal costumes. After the kitchen closes and bottle service commences, the vibe shifts from vibrant, eclectic dinner party to chic 1970s underground club.

In just four short months, Toronto-based design firm Westgrove has transformed what was previously a Pizzeria Libretto into a luxurious, maximalist space. The 104-seat room has some Enoteca echoes (fluted walnut-panelled walls, forest green accents), but the space is broodier and sexier thanks to the unrestrained use of dark marble, brass and mirrors.

“This is a celebratory restaurant,” says Di Tullio. “That’s why we have a lot of large tables that seat up to 12 people.”

Westgrove added this disco ball focal point to reinforce the 1970s Miami supper club vibe.

The space is decorated with a mix of new and vintage pieces. This green marble table, for instance, was found by the firm on Kijiji—it had been languishing in a nonna’s basement for years. It was too small, so they added a leaf in the centre so the table could seat 10 guests.
The pelican wallpaper is from House of Hackney.

Although most parties like being in the middle of the action, there’s also a private dining room for those seeking a more intimate experience. And that’s not a window to the right of the door—it’s a one-way mirror that allows diners to peer in on the fun happening in the main room.