Where To DINE Now: Fabbrica

Mark McEwan’s Fabbrica speaks Italian

If I didn’t know for sure that Mark McEwan was Canadian/American/Scottish, I would figure that he was Italian. At his new restaurant Fabbrica, (across the street from McEwan the store) as I read the menu and taste the food, I get a strong sense of McEwan/Italian.

The Antipasti: Peperoni della Nonna stand in a sturdy little row on a white tray, wickedly glistening red, stuffed with unassuming minced boconcini, anchovies, olives and capers. Each cherry pepper is a minefield of explosive flavor that leaves me gasping and wanting more. These are the best friends a martini could have.

The Pizza: Margherita Pizza, sparkles with the colors of the Italian flag: the red of San Marzano tomato, white of mozzarella cheese and green of freshly snipped basil. It is at our table in minutes, aromatic with the large charred blistered crust that occurs in a wood burning brick oven. Authentic Neopolitana.

Looking around Fabbrica, which means factory in Italian, it is clear that the “factory” part, or kitchen, where the goods are manufactured, is the most dramatic and important part of the room. Serious steel construction and space for every function makes for efficiency in execution of each dish on the menu – on time and on budget. Comfortable booths and banquets fill the center of the room, but I enjoy being at our table on a kind of piazza, with a view of the salumi cellar, a glass enclosed room where hams and salumi hang, and shelves lined with preserves. Rough-hewn two by fours line the wall next to us, and even while there is a snowstorm outside, we have the distinct feeling that we could be dining al fresco.

Each dish on the menu is underscored with a suggested wine pairing or beer pairing, for example, Pettini, a dish of seared scallops and anchovy speck vinaigrette is matched with Paulaner Draft. Chef Andrew Ellerby is proud of the fact that they have contracted a young Italian farmer who raises hogs, grows the food that they eat, and makes the products they serve, using old family recipes. There are ten types of salumi to choose from, and it is recommended that an order is four types.

The Secondi: From the section Pesci: Orata (seabream) is grilled so the skin is crisp and tasty, boned and dressed up with capers, mint, and crunchy nuggets of olive oil croutons. Usually a bland fish, here they have given it all the flavors of the sunny Mediterranean. And from the section Carni: the Bistecca, is a luxurious grilled 10 oz grass-fed striploin, simply partnered with balsamic glazed mushrooms (no cipollini onions as described on menu). It fulfills a steak lover’s desire.

The Contorni: To choose side dishes that are just right for carni and pesci is not a dilemma here. Roasted fingerlings are crusty brown and piqued with rosemary and garlic; a variety of organic beets are roasted with pistachios and seasoned with balsamic; and a plethora of sliced wild mushrooms are roasted with grana padano and olive oil. A vegetarian could find Nirvana with these three dishes, so distinctly flavorful and generously portioned.

McEwan has transferred staff from ONE at the Hazelton Hotel on Yorkville out to the “burbs”. General Manager, Tiffany, has lost none of her charm in the transition, and Chef de Cuisine Rob LeClair is in his element. It’s a bit of a drive to get here, but McEwan does sweeten it by offering complimentary Valet Parking.

49 Karl Fraser Rd., Toronto, ON

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