Ok. While Mikey does have an Irish/British/Scottish background, and Micky is Taiwanese, we felt right at home at Aprile Bambina Cucina. Located just west of the intersection of Gerrard Street East and Jones Avenue on Gerrard, this new restaurant is making a stand in the neighbourhood that has taken on the nickname – ‘Jonesville’ – Aprile Bambina Cucina is one of the highlights of this somewhat barren stretch of Gerrard. We were glad to see this spot pop up in December, 2012 and have been looking forward to testing it out for a few weeks now.
The atmosphere inside on this particular night (Friday), was one of comfort and charm. Welcoming staff and good music to set the mood that was one of the highlights of our experience here.
The environment is capped with a variety of knick-knacks dotting the exposed brick, including vintage Italian posters (presumably movie posters as neither of us speak Italian), black and white photos and a great accordion that looks primed for a test drive. Speaking of driving there is a Vespa Scooter hanging over the doorway as you walk in.
Although we did get to the restaurant early (around 6pm), we were pleasantly surprised to the find many of the tables happily occupied by young families. What we saw was a staff that was receptive to the needs of kids and this was actually a breath of fresh air to see. Too often you see waitstaff become disinterested in a demanding group, but we saw positive and genuine interaction that makes Aprile Bambina Cucina a great choice for an early dinner for a young family that wants to get out. Turns out our dining time that evening was to bridge two different experiences. We were told that they receive a healthy number of young families until about 7pm, when their clientele shifts to an older demographic, including an influx of young professionals.
This was absolutely the case, and at around 7:15pm they started pouring in. The vibe quickly folded over to more bustling and energized, as the bar filled up and wine poured more frequently.
So what did we eat?
Wine of Choice: Erste + Neue Sauvignon Blanc – A Sauv Blanc that migrates closer to the poignant and sharp spectrum, still offered a refreshing taste with a lingering gooseberry flavours.
Appetizer: Grilled lamb chop with homemade slaw of tomatoes, mushrooms – Picking the special (app) of the day, Micky enjoyed the dish itself, but found that the Lamb was only slightly seasoned and could have been dressed up a bit more. The slaw? De-lish.
Main: Seafood Fettuccine with Shrimp, calamari & mussels, charred corn, red onions, cherry tomato, spinach in a white wine cream sauce - An attribute we definitely picked up on was how fresh everything was. Upon speaking with some of the staff, we found out that they have no freezer on site and thus make do on a what is fresh and on-hand. Micky definitely enjoyed her explorations of this seafood dish, lapping up a delicious cream sauce that kept giving for days. Not overly salty, but packed with flavour, this dish is the priciest (leave it to Micky to find the most expensive), but was worth every penny.
Wine of Choice: Ca’del Doge Piantaferro Primitivio – A bit of a fruit bomb, with a smooth aftertaste, Mikey enjoyed this and if wasn’t driving this night, this glass probably would have led to another.
Appetizer: Fresh PEI Mussels – Mustard white wine broth, baby spinach, shallots, garlic, roasted cherry tomato and sweet corn. He has this terrible addiction to all things shellfish and when he got in and sat down, he immediately was enticed by these little guys. A fabulous choice if he had to say so. Freshness is the key with mussels, which tend to get dry and ‘dusty’ when they’re dated or over cooked, and April Bambina Cucina delivered. A sure sign of a great bowl of Mussels, is when the patron is seen mopping up the broth with any remaining remnants of bread found on the table. Mikey was Exhibit A.
Main: Spagetti and House Made Meat Balls in a classic tomato sauce and parmesan - After a relatively long week of work, Mikey felt like something a touch simple for his main, finally deciding on an Italian classic – Spagetti and Meat Balls. Disappointed, he was not. We’ve been to restaurants that compensate with salt in an attempt to ‘dress up’ this classic dish and this was not the case here. Mikey got through this dish with ease, noting that the tomato sauce was fresh and full of a traditional Roma flavours. These meat balls were made on site, the day of and the moistness of them prevailed to the table. A great dish filled with simplicity.
Dessert: White Chocolate Tiramisu with espresso-soaked lady fingers. While this was likely overkill, our everlasting sweet tooth seemed to be telling us that we just had to indulge in something from their dessert menu. This was a little gem indeed that was a light for a Tiramisu and refreshing enough for a dessert. Glad we ordered it, but if we go back again, we’ll likely share an appetizer and leave more room for dessert. Sometimes you have to pick your battles and by the time we got to this dish we were quite full.
All in all this dinner was a fabulous experience and one that demands a repeat. With a menus that boasts great (from what we tried), classic Italian cuisine at modest prices on appetizers ($5-$14), pizzas ($13-$16) and pastas ($14-$18), its a hit for a varying demographic. Although we didn’t get busy on any of their pizzas, they looked amply for two kids to split or one adult to slam. We definitely enjoyed this experience and are looking forward to more restauranteurs establishing further eastern outposts in the city of Toronto. What we witnessed was neighbourhood that is hungry for quality eateries – Pun absolutely intended.