The Fried Calamari with Shrimp & Marinara Sauce
After living near Leslieville for a little while, I would drive past this place with a giant nose sculpture on the outside. The facade is an old bank and I just assumed it was a dive bar. The place didn't really have a sign or anything...it was just simply referred to as 'the nose'. Well the place was actually a restaurant and a pretty damn good one called, 'Gio Rana's Really Really Nice Restaurant'. That's it's name - really. Cute. Creative and why the heck not?
After mentioning the name to a couple of trusted foodie friends, the feedback was pretty stellar. Most agreed that they do really, really great food and I should give it a go. The vibe is casual, un-fussy with a great menu of comforting Italian food. If you like 7 Numbers - you'll like this. The menus are very similar in that it is small plates of great food, perfect for sharing. The calamari is one of the best in Toronto, with a lightly battered crust and tender calamari on the inside. Seeing the juicy shrimp and the crispy lettuce made for bonus points. The Calamari is sliced open carefully like a fan and all that batter slips in-between for perfectly crispy goodness. Slide that down with some really good wine and you have the start of a really great night out.
Giant Ravioli Stuffed with Butternut Squash
My other pick of what to order is the giant butternut squash ravioli soaked in a buttery sauce with softly shaved cheese that melts on the hot pasta. The whole thing melts in your mouth and is a great appetizer. The brussel sprouts (below) were crunchy and salty from the bacon. It was a really nice side dish and a nice change from the usual side salad.
This may have been brussel sprouts with bacon and cheese!
Meatballs in Risotto with Cheese on Top
Both the meat entrees were warm and comforting. The beef was very tender and fell off the bone. The meatballs were savoury and paired well with the risotto. I do have to say, I did like my appetizers a bit more. So make it meal by ordering a bunch and a bottle of wine for dinner and maybe mix it up with just one main.
The Hip Vintage Vibe
The Old Bank Safe - Turned Wine Cellar + Private Dining
Just Look for the Nose!
Next time you're looking for a cool restaurant in Leslieville, Toronto - give Gio Rana's a peek. Call ahead for a reservation, as they get very busy quickly. The food is fantastic and the prices are very reasonable. It's one of our hip + urban girl favourites!
Gio Rana's Really Really Nice Restaurant, Toronto
1220 Queen Street East