Chef Rob Rossi of MICHELIN Star–recognized Osteria Giulia shares his favourite spots in the city.
Chef Rob Rossi of Osteria Giulia—honoured with One MICHELIN Star in 2022—is often asked for Toronto recommendations by visiting out-of-town peers.
Back in his hometown after a few years living outside of Toronto, Rossi is a firm advocate of exploring different pockets of the city. Despite living in the east end, most of his visitor recommendations fall solidly in the Westside. “I think there’s a more established food scene in the west end,” says Rossi.
Unpack and explore downtown
“I’ve always been a fan of the Ace Hotel. Yes, it’s trendier and hipster. But Patrick Kriss has a great restaurant there, Alder, there’s Sam James coffee in the lounge, the architecture is beautiful, and the location is a gateway to downtown. You’re very close to Yorkville for amazing sushi—it’s a seven-minute drive—and you’re close to Richmond Street, which has great restaurants,” says Rossi.
“Dovercourt Village is a friendly part of town to walk around and shop, and there are some great older buildings on Queen Street West. On Dovercourt Road itself, you’ve got Pizzeria Badiali (it’s amazing!) and Taverne Bernhardts, which is a really unique restaurant because it’s in a residential neighbourhood, and you can sit outside in the summertime.”
“Dundas Street West is full of bars, so if you’re young, it’s a great place to go. On College Street, where [my other restaurant] Giulietta is, there’s a lot of nightlife—there’s a whole swath of places to go. Literally, just wander around, and you’ll find cool stuff in these neighbourhoods,” enthuses Rossi.
Nosh on sushi, sandwiches and coffee
“The impetus for [Toronto] Japanese restaurants is for sushi, but the cuisine is vast and unique—and I feel like Aburi Hana showcases cool things, not just slices of fish on rice or on a plate. You get a real experience here. Yasu Toronto on Harbord Street is a great little room, too. It fits 20 people and has amazing sushi and sashimi,” says Rossi.
Also see: 5 Peak Luxury Japanese Restaurants
“My favourite bakery is Robinson Bread on Brock Avenue. I love it: I go there all the time, like three days a week. If I get there early enough, I get their ham and cheese sandwich.
The bread is pristine—it’s [a] perfect sourdough baguette, with mustard, tarragon mayo, nice cheese and some beautiful ham on there. Honestly, it’s just amazing—so simple and so good. I get croissants there, too, but I mostly go for the sandwich.”
As for coffee, Rossi endorses a local fave. “I drink a lot of coffee at my own restaurant since we have espresso machines, but I would go to Sam James Coffee Bar on Harbord Street. I love their coffee, the way it’s roasted and made; it’s well-rounded and tastes Italian.”
Stroll, roll, sightsee and sip
“There are a lot of great parks around the city. One I go to with my wife and daughter is in the east end: Taylor Creek Park. It goes into the Don Valley and there are plenty of paths. There’s High Park, too [in the west end]. It’s beautiful around there: it feels like a forest in the middle of the city,” says Rossi.
Also out west, “Humber Bay Bridge is a nice area to bike or run to. It’s an older part of town and you’ve got the lake breeze off the Martin Goodman trail. Go west or east and stop at one of the beaches.”
For shopping, head to buzzy Queen West. “Go east from along Queen Street West from Shaw Street…A lot of cool shops on this strip—just walk and you’ll find something unique, as there are a lot of Canadian retailers that are one-offs making their own clothes,” says Rossi.
Next, entertain the littles near Downtown Yonge Street. “There’s the Little Canada exhibit, where they’ve recreated Canadian cities in miniature in real form. There are little cars going around the Don Valley, Montreal. My daughter loved it. It’s interactive; you see the cities in action… it’s pretty cool!”
Back to Toronto’s restaurant scene, Rossi lists off a few more must-visits. “Bar Isabel and Bar Raval make great cocktails. And if you decide you want to eat, you’re in great hands! At Bar Isabel, I always go for the octopus—it’s pretty popular—and I get the anchovies at Bar Raval. To drink, I usually get a negroni or a nice tequila.”
Visit Chef Rob Rossi’s MICHELIN Star-recognized restaurant Osteria Giulia, plus Giulietta.