Jamie’s Italian opens its first Canadian location in Yorkdale
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has brought his successful family-friendly restaurant chain Jamie’s Italian to Canada. Since the opening of the first restaurant in 2008 in Oxford, England, Jamie’s Italian has grown to over 60 restaurants worldwide. Its first Canadian location—an 8,300-square-foot restaurant at Yorkdale mall—has been open just in December 2015. The Toronto restaurant is a partnership between Jamie’s Italian International and Toronto-based restaurant group the King Street Food Company, known for their management of top Toronto Italian restaurants Bar Buca and Buca, rated as the number three restaurant in Canada. Jamie was looking for a company that mirrored his own food philosophies, so he selected King Street Food Company as the operators in Canada.
"Opening our first restaurant in Toronto will be a really special moment for me,"
said Jamie Oliver.
"Canada is a place that's always been close to my heart, and whenever I visit I always get an incredible welcome...We'll be serving up some really beautiful, simple, great value Italian food, all made with the very best quality ingredients we can get our hands on."
Jamie’s Italian Yorkdale is focused on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients for Italian dishes in a family-friendly atmosphere. The menu follows in the footsteps of the UK restaurants, except for a couple of items that are specific to Canada, like the pork and fennel meatball appetizer created by head chef Frank Venditti (from Bar Buca). There are certain items that never leave the menu, like Jamie’s ‘famous’ prawn linguini and the turkey milanese.
The sourcing of local ingredients is something that stays consistent no matter where Jamie’s Italian opens up. Here in Canada that means pork from duBreton in Quebec and Ocean Wise certified seafood from Vancouver, fished using sustainable methods. In particular, the protein "is phenomenal", gushed Brand Ambassador Nick Kypreos.
"Much of our beef is sourced from PEI, free-range, part of a program where AAA cattle are being raised on potato farms, grazing on lands that are resting. People are taken aback about how beautiful our steaks are coming out."
The décor, led by Black Sheep Hospitality decorators out of the UK, is polished and contemporary with a purposeful roughness around the edges. As you enter, you’re greeted with very high ceilings and an enormous bar that wraps around to the hanging prosciutto and meat slicers, accessorized with baby blue leather stools. Exposed ducts lead towards the industrial, while screens between booths keep the large space split into more intimate, private sections. Walking past vintage school chairs at wooden tables leads you to the open kitchen at the back, with additional large tables, leather banquettes, and accents walls—some exposed brick, others reclaimed wood. Servers wear skinny black ties with a pinned, gold coloured ‘J’, brown industrial aprons at their waist and studded leather satchels.
The night I visited I had the arancini margherita ($8.50) to start—spicy, stuffed risotto rice balls, crisp on the outside with a spicy arrabiata sauce and piri piri chilies on the plate. Also the cured meats plank, which was highly recommended to me by our server who indicated he didn’t like olives until he tried these, features some of the restaurant’s best. It includes their fennel salami and pistachio mortadella, with the plank served resting atop two cans of cherry tomato pomodorini. It also had what was the highlight of food for the rest of the evening: the best, creamy Levoni San Daniele prosciutto.
For mains I tried Jamie’s sausage pappardelle ($11.50) with never-ending, lasagna-like curly noodles, ragu of slow-cooked fennel, free-range pork sausage, Parmigiana Reggiano and bread crumbs for crispiness. From their selection of pizzas, the Fiorentina ($18.95) featured lemony ricotta, free-range eggs, and anchovies. Dessert is not to be missed: both the affogato with vanilla gelato and hot espresso ($5.95), as well as the lemon meringue cheesecake ($9.25) were worth every bite.
Overall, this is a restaurant that focuses on two things: quality ingredients in a family-friendly space. Kypreos reassured me:
"We’re a restaurant that’s focused on providing fantastic meals to people of all ages."
The Canadian location in Yorkdale adds to its accessibility, with the subway line and parking available. Make reservations because the buzz around this restaurant means that even a Tuesday night can see line-ups and wait times.