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