Italians have been in Toronto for well over a century and they've played a huge role in forming our city's identity. By 1910, Italian immigrants were instrumental in helping build a whopping (see what I did there?) percentage of the infrastructure here. They soon created a handful of "Little Italy's" which still remain intact today - gifting Torontonians with dozens on dozens of swanky restaurants, bars, adorable bakeries, and colourful street festivals. So even if you've sold your soul and moved away from the whatever Little Italy you're from, I know you'll be able to relate to these 11 things.
1. Going Grocery Store Hoping To Get "The Good Stuff"
Sure, there's nothing wrong with No Frills, but Saturday morning means your mom is jetting from the bakery for fresh bread and pastries, to the butcher for that ground veal, then finishing off at Lady York and Grande Cheese for those imported goodies you can't find anywhere else. None of that mungicake stuff.
2. Soccer Celebrations On St. Clair and College.
You already know that soccer is everything to Italians. And even if you're like me and don't really follow it until the World/Euro Cup comes along - you still go all out when the boys play! Bars and restaurants all along St. Clair and College street are filled to capacity, full of anxious fans donning the Azzurri blue. You know exactly where you were when Italy took home the World Cup in 2006 - in the streets with thousands of other crazy fans.
3. If You Grew Up In North York, You've Definitely Been to Rustic Bakery.
And you probably snuck out of school for lunch to pick up a greasy slice from their glorious hot table. In the summer you'll find the stereotypical picture : a group of old men sippin' their espresso outside, smoking their cigarettes.
4. Sunday Is A THING.
Like, I don't think I can stress this enough. Nonna's been in the kitchen all morning stirring the sugo. Maybe your Zio and Zia come by with bags of fresh bread and pastries. TLN is on the TV in the background. The house smells like heaven as you try to cram 15 plates and chairs around a table that should only be seating six people. There's a plastic tablecloth on overtop of the real tablecloth. Getting through all the courses during lunch is like a triathlon. But it's alright 'cause you'll probably be napping it off soon after anyway.
Photo cred - Schema Magazine
5. You've Got A Vegetable Garden.
No matter the size of the garden he's got to work with, nonno always knows how to turn it out. It's a tradition that he loves to uphold every single year. Tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, peppers, herbs, even grapes, peaches and cherries - there's hope for even just a tiny bit beautiful green space in our concrete jungle, all thanks to nonno.
6. You Have A Cantina In Your Basement.
A cantina is like an underground lair of hidden treasures. Want some cookies? Want a spoonful of Nutella? A bottle of wine? Come on down. Bonus points if you've got sausages hanging from the ceiling, looking like something out of a low budget horror movie.
7. Your Garage May Have Doubled As A Barn.
Rabbits, chickens...Is this even legal in Toronto? This is as old school as it gets. Growing up with my nonno raising rabbits out of our garage, I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world - until I realized they weren't pets so much as they were dinner. Let's not even get into all the times I thought I was eating "chicken".
Photo cred - mdfeeds.com
8. You're Serious About Food.
Who has the better veal sandwich? California's or San Francesco? These two longtime rivals have battled for the top spot for years. Honestly though, it doesn't even matter. Just go try out both places and see if you can determine a winner - they're only a few blocks away from each other. You're gonna need napkins. Lots and lots of napkins.
9. You Probably Went To Catholic High School.
Not that it did very much good. I curse Gossip Girl for allowing me to believe I could possibly look even half as cute as Serena and Blair did at school. Instead, I was forced to buy an ill-fitting, sweat-inducing potato sack. The struggle was real for you if you've ever been sent home for dressing outside the "uniform guidelines" - which is just code for boys who refused to take off their hats, and girls who rolled their skirts up way past what the religion teacher deemed as "tasteful". Here's looking at you Dante, Chaminade, Loretto College and St. Jo's.
10. Putting the G in "GTL" at the Columbus Centre.
Ladies, if you're looking to bag an Italian Stallion as your future husband, start doing your squats over at the Columbus Centre at Dufferin and Lawerence. It's probably cheaper than GoodLife, and the eye-candy is a sweet, sweet bonus. Caffe Cinquecento is literally right there, too. You're supposed to load up on carbs post-workout, right? Yeah, sounds good to me. In that case I'll take the pasta and the pizza.
11. Putting the T in "GTL" at The Pool.
We take the "sun's out, gun's out" motto very seriously here. Sitting near St. Claire and Lansdowne, the Joseph J. Piccininni Community Centre (simply known as J.J.P's) houses a pretty decently sized pool, water slide, and tons of prime, poolside tanning space. If you're from the area, you know the best way to cool off afterwards is by grabbing some limone and pistachio gelato at La Paloma's right next door.