303 - Get Away to Grano's
By Lauren Gosnell
A visit to Grano is like spending an evening in Italy. The inviting mismatched wooden tables, pastel–washed walls and old photos of owner Roberto Martella as a boy easily transport you back to the old country.
Whether relaxing at the espresso bar or sunning yourself by the water fountain in the back terrace, Grano is the perfect place to drift away to la dolce vita. For years, Grano has drawn a well–heeled cultured crowd to its salon speaker series featuring the likes of celebrated thinkers as Bernard–Henri Lévy, Camille Paglia and Christopher Hitchens. But it’s the food that is at the heart of this beloved trattoria.
Grano is the Italian word for grain. According to Roberto, the simplest and most memorable meal begins with the most basic of ingredients and the cornerstone of the meal is bread. He calls this idea companatico, to eat with bread.
Everything on the Grano menu pairs well with the welcoming basket of assorted breads baked fresh daily on the premises. Take the caponata, a Sicilian stewed dish served cold from Grano’s impressive antipasti bar – one of the largest in the city. The soft ratatouille–like mix of eggplant, zucchini, celery and tomatoes spread on top of a piece of focaccia herb bread is an earthy but winning combination.
Many of Grano’s dishes originate from la cucino povera, poor man’s cuisine. Bread was an economical and tasty way to extend the meal by filling up the stomach. Never wasteful, Tuscan housewives would put every scrap of stale bread to good use in a tasty dish of panzanella, a bread and tomato salad – another highlight from the ever–changing antipasti bar.
Roberto’s philosophy on food is that it is not just what you eat, but how you eat it. At Grano, meals are meant to be shared among friends. Whether sitting down with the likes of James Carville and Gore Vidal or reuniting with your old school chums, Grano is a warm, unpretentious place in which to break bread. And if you’re keen to pick up a word or two of the lingo, sign up for their legendary Language & Linguine classes on Monday nights.
2035 Yonge St.