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What’s on the Menu at Via Allegro Ristorante, an Etobicoke staple for Italian food with a new Claudio Aprile–designed menu

And a wine cellar 70,000 bottles deep

By Alex Cyr| Photography by Jelena Subotic
What's on the Menu at Via Allegro Ristorante, an Etobicoke staple for Italian food with a new Claudio Aprile–designed menu

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Name: Via Allegro Ristorante Contact: 1750 The Queensway, 416-622-6677, viaallegro-ristorante.ca, @viaallegroristorante
Neighbourhood: Etobicoke
Previously: Ruben and Wong Chinese Buffet Owners: Mohamad Fakih Chef: Marco Zandona Accessibility: Fully accessible   Via Allegro Ristorante became a go-to for Etobicoke’s Italian community not long after it opened back in 1996. Its big pizzas, heaping plates of pastas, 70,000-bottle wine collection and 200-person capacity made it a popular gathering ground for big groups celebrating baptisms, birthdays, engagements and weddings. But its history and loyal customers couldn’t completely shield the restaurant from a pandemic-induced slowdown, and by the summer of 2022, new owner Mohamad Fakih thought it was time to reinvigorate the establishment. So he went big and enlisted acclaimed chef Claudio Aprile, known for his previous role as a judge on MasterChef Canada, to breathe fresh life into the menu as Via Allegro’s new creative director.

Chef Claudio Aprile puts the finishing touches on a dish at Via Allegro Ristorante
Aprile puts the finishing touches on the scallop crudo, a new menu item
The food

Aprile joined forces with Marco Zandona, Via Allegro’s head chef of 19 years, to create a new roster of dishes that blends the unmistakable flavours of Italian cuisine with global inspiration from Japan, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. The goal, says Zandona, is to preserve items that regulars have come to love and pair them with fresh options. “Each of these dishes holds a special place in my heart,” he says, “whether it’s a timeless classic like the Margherita pizza or a reimagined one like the beefed-up speducci. Having Claudio on board makes this place rise to the top.”

A classic margherita pizza at Via Allegro in Etobicoke
No dish better exemplifies the combination of classic and new than the Margherita pizza, where tomatoes and burrata complement pesto, fior di latte and basil on a crispy thin crust. “The goal was to elevate the pizza program so that Via Allegro could also stand on its own as a pizzeria,” says Aprile. $27

 

Via Allegro Ristorante's scallop crudo is served over a steaming plate of liquid nitrogen
The scallop crudo is a showstopper of an appetizer: three sea scallops decorated with diced cucumber, mint leaves and caviar are served over a steaming plate of liquid nitrogen. $49

 

A closer look a Via Allegro Ristorante's scallop crudo
Here’s a closer look

 

The tuna tartare at Via Allegro Ristorante, an Italian restaurant in Etobicoke, Ontario
The tuna tartare, a cross-cultural creation of Aprile’s, has already become the most popular item on the menu. It merges cubes of raw tuna with crispy rice and avocado, all finished with notes of citrus and ginger. $37

 

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The lamb speducci, two juicy skewers served with salsa verde, roasted eggplant and drizzled yogurt, at Via Allegro Ristorante
The lamb speducci, two juicy skewers served with salsa verde, roasted eggplant and drizzled yogurt, makes for a hearty starter. “People loved the speducci,” says Aprile, “so we made them a lot meatier than they used to be. Now, guests can order them as a full meal rather than an appetizer.” $26

 

The short rib agnolotti at Via Allegro Ristorante combines Japanese maitake mushrooms, talleggio cheese and fresh egg-pasta, all stirred up inside a giant wheel of parmesan cheese
The short-rib agnolotti features Japanese maitake mushrooms, Taleggio cheese and fresh egg pasta, all stirred up inside a big wheel of parm, which infuses the dish with added funk. $54

 

A serving of mango-passionfruit cheesecake at Via Allegro, an Italian restaurant in Etobicoke
This mango-passionfruit cheesecake garnished with soft meringue and an amaretti crumble pairs well with its quenelle of fruity sorbet. $16

 

A chocolate smash dessert at Via Allegro Ristorante is filled with macarons and fruit
The chocolate sphere is a family favourite: guests smash it with a spoon to reveal a colourful arrangement of macarons and fruit. Drama comes courtesy of liquid nitrogen. $75

 

A closer look at what's inside the chocolate smash dessert at Via Allegro Ristorante
Here’s a closer view of the sphere’s contents: seasonal macarons, chocolate bonbons, sponge cake, freeze-dried strawberries, vanilla mousse and blood-orange jelly
The drinks

Via Allegro’s wine collection comprises 70,000 bottles and is valued at $20 million. House sommelier Wendy Votto takes pride in sifting through the phone book–size list to find the right recommendation for every occasion. The liquor reserve doesn’t quite rival the wine collection, but the scotch wall near the restaurant’s entrance is pretty breathtaking.

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The Ultimo Volo, a gin-based cocktail at Via Allegro Ristorante in Etobicoke
The Ultimo Volo, featuring Tanqueray gin, chartreuse and lime, gets its distinctive purple hue from a few drops of crème de violette. $25

 

The Sale e Pepe, Via Allegro Ristorante's take on a dirty martini
The tart and savoury Sale e Pepe is a blend of olive-infused Grey Goose vodka, vermouth, lemon and black pepper syrup. $26

 

The space

The restaurant’s imposing façade rises above the Queensway and faces CF Sherway Gardens shopping mall. Inside, a collection of family-sized tables surround a full wood-burning pizza oven and sit more than 200 people. The crown jewel, however, is the back patio, which transports customers away from central Etobicoke’s concrete clusters and directly into a purple-and-green botanical oasis modelled after the gardens of Tuscany.

The exterior of Via Allegro Ristorante, an Italian restaurant in Etoboicoke, Ontario
The main dining room at Via Allegro Ristorante is decorated with a mural of an Italian streetscape
Bottles of liquor line one wall of Via Allegro, an Italian restaurant in Etobicoke
The private dining room at Via Allegro Ristorante in Etobicoke, Ontario
Via Allegro Ristorante's wine collection is 70,000 bottles deep
Claudio Aprile chef Marco Zandona by the wood-burning pizza ovens at Via Allegro Ristorante in Etobicoke, Ontario
A pizza is pulled from the wood-burning oven at Via Allegro Ristorante
The back patio at Via Allegro Ristorante, an Italian restaurant in Etobicoke

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