Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Arrivederci, John

With a certain foodie friend recently visiting Toronto, we were in need of a good place to eat.  My first instinct was to….suggest a chain restaurant that I had a gift card for, since I’m cheap.  But my second instinct was to suggest my old standby of John’s Italian Caffe, a quaint little Italian place in Baldwin Village that’s arguably my favourite Toronto restaurant.

Since my friend Jo (also coming to dinner) has food allergies, I went online to send her the menu to look it over.  It was then that I discovered that John’s has been closed (!) for almost a year (!!), in a complete whaaaaaaaaaat?! moment.  So okay, fair point that if it was really my “favourite Toronto restaurant,” I probably should’ve been going more than once a year.  Still, I thought I had time!  I never expected it would be a Homer-doesn’t-meet-Mr. T-at-the-mall situation. 

My last visit to John’s took place in the summer of 2014 when I had lunch with my friend Lori, which ended up unwittingly putting a thematic bow on my John’s experience since Lori was the one who introduced me to the restaurant in the first place.  Since then, I think I’ve been there with pretty much all of my Toronto crew at one time or another.  Hell, I even took my mom there when she and her retired teacher friends made their annual trip to the city on the first day of school (a.k.a. the “Ha Ha, We’re Retired, We Get To Avoid The Madness, Suckers!” trip).

If pressed to name something truly special about John’s, I’d say what made the place unique was that it simply delivered on every element, rather than have one clear drawing point.  Nice location, very nice patio, not too big a restaurant yet also not too small, a general “this looks like pretty much every Italian restaurant ever” decor, fine menu and GREAT pizza.  That quickly became my go-to order pretty much every time I went to the place, though still, from what others told me, you couldn’t go wrong with much else on the menu.  Maybe the generic “John’s” name really said it all — this was no-frills but man, was it ever good.

So with a tip of the cap to John’s, I’m now in need of another favourite Toronto restaurant.  I’m open to suggestions, with the current leading candidate being the Swiss Chalet up near Bloor and Sherbourne.  I’m, uh, not a varied eater.

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