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What’s on the menu at DaNico, a super-swanky Italian restaurant with a Michelin connection

It’s housed in the old Scotiabank building across from Sneaky Dee’s

By Erin Hershberg| Photography by Joshua Best
What's on the menu at DaNico, a super-swanky Italian restaurant with a Michelin connection
Photo by Joshua Best

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Name: DaNico Contact: 440 College St., 416-542-3789, danicotoronto.com, @danico.to
Neighbourhood: University Previously: Scotiabank Owners: Nick Di Donato (Liberty Entertainment Group), Ernesto Iaccarino and Daniele Corona Chef: Daniele Corona (Don Alfonso 1890) Accessibility: Fully accessible

When Nick Di Donato decided to embark on his latest passion project, it wasn’t because he had time on his hands. The CEO of Liberty Entertainment Group is currently operating six restaurants (BlueBlood Steakhouse, three Cibo locations, Don Alfonso 1890) and two event venues (Casa Loma, Liberty Grand), and he’s a silent partner for King West resto-clubs Pizza Wine Disco and Paris Texas. As if that weren’t enough, he’s about to turn 8,000 square feet of Union Station into a new steak-and-sushi concept called Blue Bovine.

But, despite his very full dance card, the Toronto restaurateur jumped on the restored heritage site at College and Bathurst as soon as it came up for lease. “We were not in the market for a new restaurant, but I didn’t want to pass on the opportunity to do something spectacular with this building,” says Di Donato. “And I knew that Daniele—who won us a Michelin star under the Don Alfonso umbrella—was itching to come out and do his own thing. This place just made sense.”

The exterior of DaNico, an Italian restaurant housed in a historic building that was previously a Scotiabank
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Daniele Corona, the chef of DaNico, an Italian restaurant in Toronto
Chef Daniele Corona

Having said that, the extraordinary new stomping grounds for Daniele Corona’s Asian-influenced, modern-spun Italian soul food is a backdrop rife with whimsical design touches (like an original Salvador Dali melting-clock brass sculpture) meant to invoke in diners the same delightful surprise they feel after a bite of crispy puffed micro rigatoni carbonara.

Nadia and Nick Di Donato, owners of Liberty Entertainment Group, pictured in their new Italian restaurant DaNico
Nick Di Donato and his wife, Nadia, who is also Liberty Entertainment Group’s VP and creative director
The food

Having moved here from Italy five years ago to lead Don Alfonso 1890 to a Michelin star, Corona has picked up a few tricks from the multicultural staff he’s worked with in Toronto. Heavily influenced by some of his Asian co-chefs, Corona immersed himself in studying the beauty and simplicity of Japanese cuisine. Now at DaNico, he applies many Asian techniques (both in design and flavour) to the intentionally disorienting modern Italian menu. It’s best enjoyed as a tasting experience ($225) but is also available as a three-course prix fixe with options ($150).

The Italy in a Bite dish at DaNico, an Italian restaurant in Toronto
The Italy in a Bite is an astonishing opening to the tasting menu. Plated on the bottom left is a dish of three exquisite bites: the rigatoni carbonara, a puffed pasta that’s fried and stuffed with a delicate carbonara sauce, which gets a savoury boost from Tuscan pecorino; the cannolo Siciliano, a savoury squid-ink pastry shell stuffed with kama toro tuna and imported buffalo mozzarella; and the langoustine tartare with creamy Acadian sturgeon caviar. Pictured behind that triumvirate is the Tarbouriech oyster, a full-bodied gastropod topped with lemon foam and candied cucumber—Corona’s spin on run-of-the-mill mignonette. Next to that is the cappuccino of baccalà mantecato, a quick sip of rehydrated salt cod combined with Taggiasca olives and olive oil. It’s finished with a briny salt cod foam and sprinkled with tonburi (vegan caviar). And finally, Corona’s version of a Caprese salad, a bright tomato gel filled with mozzarella and sprinkled with shaved parm and micro basil

 

A dish of Dungeness crab at DaNico, a new Italian restaurant on College Street in Toronto
The Granchio al Gusto Mediterraneo is a dish of tender and briny BC Dungeness crab swimming in a clarified green olive coulis with crispy seasonal vegetables and chives. It’s garnished with microgreens, a house-made floral tuille and edible flowers.

 

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The lamb-stuffed tortellini at Toronto Italian restaurant DaNico
For the Tortellini d’Agnello e Anguilla Affumicata, braised Ontario lamb is stuffed into micro-tortellini and met with smoked eel in a complex Barbera wine sauce. The composed plate is finished with caramelized red onion and fresh mint

 

A thick-cut piece of Wagyu tenderloin at Italian restaurant DaNico
Il Manzo (literally “the beef” in Italian) is a thick piece of Japanese A5 Wagyu tenderloin from Miyazaki Prefecture. It’s marinated for 12 hours and gently grilled

 

Thinly sliced potato cooks over a tiny Japanese barbecue at DaNico, an Italian restaurant in Toronto's west end
The high-end cut of beef is served next to a twee Japanese barbecue displaying a skewered terrine of thinly sliced crispy potato and a shishito pepper stuffed with ricotta and guanciale

 

A collection of petit fours finishes the tasting menu at DaNico, an Italian restaurant in Toronto
The Coccoli Finale, a collection of petit fours, is surrealistically served on a blown-glass cloche. On the top left is the hazelnut éclair, a beautiful bite of traditional choux filled with a rich hazelnut and Frangelico ganache. On the right is the Amaro Nonino Macaron, a classic macaron filled with a ganache of one of Italy’s most prized Amaro brands. And finally, Corona’s spin on canelé is built with a dense layer of sponge that’s soaked in brown butter and filled with custard before being dipped in white Valrhona chocolate

 

The Bosco Delle Fragole at DaNico is a playful take on strawberry panna cotta
The Bosco Delle Fragole is a playful take on strawberry panna cotta that incorporates a rhubarb marinade, house-made goat’s milk ice cream and fine olive oil. It’s finished with vanilla sablé, fresh mint and compressed rhubarb
The drinks

A selection of tweaked classic cocktails takes a back seat to the wine program, which is available by the glass or bottle or as part of a classic or premium wine pairing to complement the tasting menu. The wine list features over 450 labels and aims to highlight Italy’s extensive wine regions and varietals from the north to the south while also featuring some standout grapes from the rest of the world. (Which is to say, there is plenty of wine from Burgundy and the Loire Valley as well.) Bottles range from an affordable $70 to a mind-boggling $9,000.

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The Diplomat is DaNico's take on the classic Manhattan
The Diplomat is the bar’s take on a traditional manhattan, spirit forward with a blend of five different amari accompanied by a peach aperitif and bitters. $26

 

An ice cube is branded at DaNico, an Italian restaurant in Toronto
That ice cube in the Diplomat? It’s branded

 

A branded ice cube, to be used in a cocktail, at DaNico
Here’s a closer look

 

DaNico's Amalfi Spritz, which is garnished with torched rosemary
The Amalfi Spritz is a crisp, herbal drink with brightly balanced flavours. It blends lemon gin, yellow Chartreuse, peach cordial and prosecco. A torched rosemary garnish adds a little drama. $24

 

The Basil Breeze cocktail at DaNico, an Italian restaurant in Toronto
The Basil Breeze is a newfangled margarita made with muddled fresh basil, Don Julio Reposado tequila, limoncello and lime. It’s garnished with orange rind and fresh basil. $26

 

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The Currant Affair, a rum-based cocktail at Toronto's DaNico Italian restaurant
The Currant Affair is a complex, funky take on a rum sour made with Flor de Cana 12-year rum, Smith and Cross high-proof rum, lemon, black currant and egg white. $24

 

A collection of cocktails at DaNico, an Italian restaurant in Toronto owned by the Liberty Entertainment Group
The space

Set within a restored bank across the street from Sneaky Dee’s, the grand room—much like the food—has a rather transcendental, theatrical vibe. Nadia Di Donato, who designed the restaurant, refers to it as a “bespoke space,” and the vibe is part gothic church, part luxurious living room and part castello ballroom.

Notable details include an entryway marked by towering wood doors reclaimed from an Italian countryside palazzo and framed by Versace tiles, steel-pillared window treatments that conjure the pipes of a church organ, a structural beam transformed into a 27-foot-tall Corinthian-inspired pillar of maple, the original bank vault (it holds wine now), an Italian-imported antique fireplace, and a luxurious dining area with smooth velvet banquettes.

The massive front doors at Italian restaurant DaNico
What's on the menu at DaNico, a super-swanky Italian restaurant with a Michelin connection
The dining room of DaNico, with its sweeping ceilings and massive artwork, feels like the ballroom of an Italian castle
Horseshoe-shaped banquettes provide seating for larger groups at DaNico, an Italian restaurant in Toronto
The massive dining room at DaNico, filled with couches, banquettes and comfy chairs
The massive dining room at DaNico, a new Italian restaurant in Toronto owned by the Liberty Entertainment Group
Just one area of the massive dining room at Toronto Italian restaurant DaNico
A wall of wine at DaNico Italian restaurant in Toronto
Fireside seating in the dining room of DaNico
The eclectic dining room of DaNico with mismatched couches
Couch seating at a table inside the dining room of DaNico, an Italian restaurant in Toronto

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