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name: Daniko
communication: 440 College Street, 416-542-3789, danicotoronto.com, @danico.to
alive: university
previously: Scotiabank
friends: Nick Di Donato (Liberty Entertainment Group), Ernesto Iaccarino
chef: Daniel Corona
Accessibility: Completely accessible

When Nick DiDonato decided to embark on his latest passion project, it wasn’t because he had enough time. The CEO of Liberty Entertainment Group currently operates six restaurants (BlueBlood Steakhouse, three Cibo locations, Don Alfonso 1890) and two event venues (Casa Loma, Liberty Grand), And It is a silent partner of the King West Pizza Wine Disco and Paris Texas restaurant clubs. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s about to convert 8,000 square feet of Union Station into a new station A piece of meat-And the-Sushi A concept called blue peccary.

But, despite a very full dance card, the Toronto restaurateur jumped on the restored heritage site at Coolidge and Bathurst as soon as it was up for lease. “We weren’t in the market for a new restaurant, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to do something amazing in this building,” Di Donato says. “And I knew that Daniele – who had won us a Michelin star under Don Alfonso – was eager to get out and do his own thing. This place made sense.”

The exterior of DaNico, an Italian restaurant located in a historic building that was once a Scotiabank

Daniele Corona, chef at DaNico Italian Restaurant in Toronto
Chef Daniele Corona

Having said that, the unusual new spot for Daniele Corona’s modern, Asian-influenced Italian soul food is a backdrop full of quirky design touches (like the original brass sculpture of a melted Salvador Dali clock) that aim to evoke the same delight in surprised diners they feel after eating A bite of crispy mini rigatoni carbonara.

Related: A saucy survey of the best pasta dishes in town

Nadia and Nick DiDonato, owners of Liberty Entertainment Group, pictured at their new Italian restaurant DaNico
Nick DiDonato and his wife Nadia, who also serves as Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Liberty Entertainment Group
the food

Having moved here from Italy five years ago to drive the 1890 Don Alfonso to a Michelin star, Corona has learned a few tricks from the multicultural staff he worked with in Toronto. Corona was deeply influenced by some of his Asian chefs, and immersed himself in studying the beauty and simplicity of Japanese cuisine. Now at DaNico’s, he applies several Asian techniques (both in design and flavor) to an intentionally confusing 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).

Italy in a small dish at DaNico's Italian Restaurant in Toronto
Italy in a Bite is a stunning opening to the tasting menu. At the bottom left is a plate of three wonderful bites: rigatoni carbonara, a fried puffy pasta filled with a delicate carbonara sauce, which gets its delicious flavor from Tuscan pecorino; Cannolo Siciliano, a delicious squid ink pastry shell filled with cama toro tuna and imported buffalo mozzarella; Langoustine tartare with creamy Acadian sturgeon caviar. Pictured behind this trio are Tarbouriech oysters, a full-bodied gastropod topped with lemon foam and candied cucumber – a Corona spin on plain madonnaise. Next to that is the Baccalà Manticato cappuccino, a quick sip of salted cod mixed with Taggiasca olives and olive oil. It is finished with a salt cod foam and sprinkled with tonburi (vegetable caviar). And finally, Corona’s version of the Caprese salad, a bright tomato gel filled with mozzarella and sprinkled with Parm and a little basil.
A plate of Dungeness crab at DaNico's, a new Italian restaurant on College Street in Toronto
The Granchio al Gusto Mediterraneo is a dish of tender and salty BC Dungeness crab swimming in green olive coulis sautéed with crunchy seasonal vegetables and chives. It is decorated with microgreens, homemade floral fabric and edible flowers.
Tortellini stuffed with lamb at Toronto Italian restaurant DaNico
For the Tortellini d’Agnello e Anguilla Affumicata, braised Ontario lamb is stuffed into mini tortellini and matched with smoked eel in a complex Barbera wine sauce. The dish ends with caramelized red onions and fresh mint
A thick cut of Wagyu tenderloin at DaNico's Italian Restaurant
Il manzu (literally “beef” in Italian) is a thick cut of Japanese A5 Wagyu beef from Miyazaki Prefecture. They are marinated for 12 hours and gently grilled
Thinly sliced ​​potatoes are cooked during a mini Japanese barbecue at DaNico's, an Italian restaurant in Toronto's west end.
The premium cuts of beef are served alongside a Japanese grill of thinly sliced ​​crispy potatoes and shishito peppers stuffed with ricotta and guanciale.
A collection of small bites rounds out the tasting menu at DaNico's, an Italian restaurant in Toronto
Coccoli Finale, an array of mini tarts, is presented surrealistically on a blown glass bottle. At the top left is the Hazelnut Eclair, a beautiful take on traditional choux filled with rich hazelnuts and Frangelico ganache. On the right is the Amaro Nonino Macaron, a classic ganache-filled macaron from one of the most valuable amaro brands in Italy. Finally, the Corona dough on the canelli is designed with a dense layer of sponge soaked in brown butter and filled with custard before dipping it in white Valrhona chocolate.
DaNico's Bosco Delle Fragole is a playful take on strawberry cotta
Bosco Delle Fragole is a playful take on strawberry cotta featuring rhubarb dressing, house-made goat’s milk ice cream, and fine olive oil. It is finished with vanilla, fresh mint and pressed rhubarb

A selection of tweaked classic cocktails takes a backseat to the wine programme, which is available by the glass, bottle or as part of a classic or fine wine blend to complement the tasting menu. The wine list includes over 450 brands and aims to highlight Italy’s vast wine regions and varieties from north to south while also featuring some distinctive grapes from the rest of the world. (This means there are plenty of wines from Burgundy and the Loire Valley, too.) Prices for bottles range from the affordable $70 to $9,000.

The Diplomat is DaNico's take on classic Manhattan
The Diplomat is a bar that takes a traditional Manhattan feel, soul forward, with a mix of five different amari accompanied by peach appetizers and refreshments. $26
An ice cube has been branded at DaNico's Italian restaurant in Toronto
This ice cube in the diplomat? It’s branded
Branded ice cube, for use in cocktails, at DaNico
Here’s a closer look
DaNico's Amalfi Spritz, garnished with burnt rosemary
Amalfi Spritz is a refreshing herbal drink with balanced flavours. It blends lemon gin, yellow chartreuse, cordial peach, and prosecco. A flaming rosemary garnish adds a little drama. $24
Basil Breeze cocktail at DaNico Italian Restaurant in Toronto
The Basil Breeze is a new margarita made with muddled fresh basil, Don Julio Reposado tequila, limoncello and lime. It is garnished with orange peel and fresh basil. $26
The Currant Affair, a cocktail made with rum at DaNico's Italian restaurant in Toronto
The Currant Affair is a complex and funky blend of rum sours made with 12-year Flor de Cana rum, high-proof Smith & Cross, lemon, blackcurrants and egg whites. $24

A selection of cocktails at DaNico, an Italian restaurant in Toronto owned by Liberty Entertainment Group

outer space

Located inside a renovated bank across the street from Sneaky Dee’s, The Great Room has a somewhat sublime, theatrical vibe — much like the food. Nadia Di Donato, who designed the restaurant, refers to it as a “bespoke space,” and the setting is part Gothic church, part luxurious living room, and part Castello ballroom.

Notable details include an entryway featuring towering wood doors reclaimed from an Italian country mansion and surrounded by Versace tiles, steel-pillared window treatments that evoke church organ pipes, and a structural beam that has been transformed into a 27-foot Corinthian-inspired building. A maple column, original bank vault (now housing wine), antique fireplace imported from Italy, and a sumptuous dining area with soft velvet banquettes.

The huge front doors at DaNico's Italian Restaurant

With its expansive ceilings and massive artwork, DaNico's dining room looks like the ballroom of an Italian castle

Horseshoe-shaped banquettes provide seating for large groups at DaNico's, an Italian restaurant in Toronto

DaNico's huge dining room is filled with sofas, banquettes, and comfy chairs

The huge dining room at DaNico's, a new Italian restaurant in Toronto owned by Liberty Entertainment Group

Just one area of ​​the massive dining room at Toronto Italian restaurant DaNico

A wall of wine at DaNico's Italian restaurant in Toronto

Fireside seating in DaNico's dining room

DaNico's eclectic dining room with mismatched sofas

Sofa seating at a table inside the dining room at DaNico's Italian restaurant in Toronto

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