What’s on the menu at DaNico, an ultra-fancy Italian restaurant tied with Michelin
communication: 440 College Street, 416-542-3789, danicotoronto.com, @danico.to
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.”
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.
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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).
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.
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.