A bartender pours a drink at Grazie Ristorante in Toronto, Canada
Grazie Ristorante Limited/Facebook

Grazie Ristorante Brings a Taste of Italy to Toronto

When I walked into Grazie shortly after 10 p.m., I could see small crowds gathering.

“What are you going to order this time?” a couple says.

The couple’s comments suggested to me that the atmosphere was a comfortable one, with people who feel at home. As more people filed into the restaurant at Yonge and Eglinton, I noticed another couple ordered without looking at the menu.

Grazie is unassuming, in a way.

It forgoes the minimalist, fine dining approach that’s dominant in the city right now in favour of simple — if a little cliché — Italian decor, in a space that has been organized to maximize the number of tables it has. To some, this might be a turnoff, but I would argue that it is one of Grazie’s strengths because it makes it feel cozy.

The walls are decorated to make you feel like you are in a small restaurant someplace in Italy. There are paintings and posters adorning the walls for Italian staples like Birra Moretti, among the owners’ family and closest friends eating right there some 30 years ago. The wood accents of the bar and the brick interior give the restaurant an old, worn-in comfort that makes it feel warm. Nothing about the decor sweeps you off your feet, but it is comfortable and familiar.

Bruschetta at Grazie Ristorante in Vaughan, Canada
Bruschetta at Grazie Ristorante in Vaughan, Ontario. Grazie Ristorante Limited/Facebook

For my appetizer, I went with the bruschetta.

I will often steer clear of it because it tends to be over-toasted and weighted down by too many toppings. I was happy to say the bread came toasted and was very moist and rich. The toppings were simple — tomatoes, oil, and herbs – but that was perhaps its greatest strength. Rather than hide the natural sweetness of tomatoes, Grazie’s bruschetta keeps it front and centre, and the herbs serve as a highlight, rather than getting in the way.

For my main course, I chose the Tasca dish.

Featuring one giant pasta filled with spinach and ricotta, I thought the brie was an interesting choice because I simply do not see it in pastas very often. Even though it was different, I thought it was the perfect cheese to balance out the ricotta and spinach. The creamy porcini tomato sauce was flavourful, and I was given a liberal helping. My only complaint about the dish would be that there was more stuffing than pasta, but I was happy to scoop up any leftovers with the bread.

The best part of the dish was the sauce. Cream sauces can often feel excessive — milky, washing out the sharp vegetable flavours — but I was pleased in that it maintained a pointed flavour of a good tomato sauce, while leaning heavily on the richness afforded by the creamy base. There was plenty of sauce, but I still wanted even more of it.

A chef cooks at Grazie Ristorante at Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto, Canada
Chef at Grazie Ristorante at Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto. Grazie Ristorante Limited/Facebook

Like any great Italian restaurant, the wine list was a staple.

In addition to a decent beer selection and a well-stocked bar, the wine list offered wines from around the world, in addition to a sizable selection of Italian wines that began at affordable prices and rose from there. Keeping with the rest of the restaurant’s atmosphere, nothing on the wine list felt especially contrived or pretentious.

The service was great, and I never felt rushed despite arriving late. My server, Sean, was happy to talk about various things on the menu, and chat about what I was doing afterwards. The food came out at a nice, measured pace, and he was quick to check in to ensure there was nothing else I needed.

Places like Grazie are the best finds. Even though it is not the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of fine dining, it does something better than a lot of restaurants nearby: It has good food, simply put, and it has a welcoming environment.

As the neighbourhood changes, I just hope that it stays put.