As a Summerhill resident, I was thrilled when I learned that the Lakes restaurant space (which had been empty for over a year) was being filled by a new tenant. Quanto Basta – Italian for “enough” or “as much as you want” is an intimate new restaurant stealing the spotlight on Yonge Street away from neighbouring (and suffering) Le Petit Castor just up the street and Earth across the street. It also has first-mover advantage south of Summerhill on Terroni whose Bar Centrale has yet to open.
Packed to the gills on a steamy weekday evening with Rosedale types both young and old, and society-page mavens (the Gee sisters and one of the proprietresses of “The Society”), Quanto Basta is the new place to see and be seen north of Yorkville. The atmosphere is inviting, warmed by the open kitchen and exposed brick walls along one side, yet sleek and sophisticated at the same time. The petite proprietress, Julia, greets an endless stream of patrons at the door with a friendly smile as her brother, Salvatore, circulates from table to table looking effortlessly cool in off-white D & G jeans.
While one can’t get enough of the buzzing atmosphere at Quanto Basta, it is possible to get enough of the food. Clearly there are some kinks to be worked out in this regard. For instance, although the service was friendly, attentive (and a little too honest about the restaurant’s air conditioning issues), it took over an hour to be served the simple antipasti we ordered– a charcuterie selection and a cheese board. At $17 each, the antipasti did not come cheap but the portions were quite generous. The selection of 5 cheeses covered a range of cow, sheep and goat’s milk cheeses. The charcuterie (supplied without an explanation of each type of offering) was less so, involving, 4 slices each of what appeared to be chorizo, peppered salami and prosciutto.
As a main course, my dining companion and I selected both the decadent (the foie gras special) and the simple (gnocchi in tomato basil sauce with ricotta). Both of these revealed that Quanto Basta still has some growing pains to work out in the kitchen. The piece of foie gras we received was plated well but sat in a pool of oil and pepper. The result was an oily/greasy texture that masked the otherwise sumptuous nature of the liver. The stringy piece we were served could not be saved by the generous portion of fig confit and frise salad which accompanied it.
As for the gnocchi, Quanto Basta has done this ubiquitous Italian comfort food a disservice. The massive portion we received could only possibly have been consumed in one sitting by someone morbidly obese. Quantity, however, does not mean quality. The gnocchi were mushy and not well formed – many pieces were opening up and losing their otherwise tight curled shape. Leaving a lot to be desired, the tomato basil sauce was flavourless. Clearly not made from fresh tomatoes, one wonders if the kitchen forgot to add seasoning at all – it was in desperate need of something, garlic, more basil, salt?!? The tiny portion of ricotta perched on top was not enough to safe the otherwise lacklustre dish.
Cocktails at Quanto Basta can be hit or miss – the Julia – a mysterious confection with strawberries and basil looked elegant and crisp with a strawberry garnish the first time around and granular and less than sparkling (minus the garnish and no hint of basil) on round two. Where its cocktails are under development, it’s offerings from the vine have matured. The selection of wines at Quanto Basta is extensive, and there is an impressive selection of wines offered by the glass thanks to the Enomatic Wine Serving system installed behind the bar which preserves expensive bottles of wine in a refrigerated and tightly sealed environment so that a bottle doesn’t spoil or turn once opened.
All told, while I’m a sucker for the “scene” at Quanto Basta, I will be eagerly awaiting the opening of Bar Centrale.
Le Petit Castor
Toronto, Toronto, ON , CA
1112 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4W, CA