Come to College Street for the repertory cinema and used vinyl, stay for the pizza and pasta.
Little Italy is a neighbourhood that really sings. Fans of live music, visual arts, record shops and other indie and lo-fi cultural experiences will have their pick of Toronto’s finest on College Street.
Putting foot to pavement is highly recommended on your College Street culture trip, and public transit makes it simple. One of the easiest ways to get here by TTC is to hop off at Queen’s Park station, on the Line 1 Yonge-University subway, and catch the streetcar westbound. The 506 Carlton streetcar runs the entirety of the College Street commercial strip, which is roughly bounded by Euclid Avenue and Shaw Street.
Plan to eat along the way. Little Italy offers more culinary diversity than the name implies—which is not to say you shouldn’t indulge in some orecchiette at one of the many trattorias (say, Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Pizza Bar, 760 College St.). Or a slice of pizza at Bitondo’s Pizzeria (11 Clinton St.)—with a Brio, Toronto’s homegrown Italian-style soft drink.
For a light meal, check out Barcelona-inspired tapas bar Bar Raval (505 College St.), and once you’ve taken a photo of its Instagram-ready woodwork, enjoy a sherry-based cocktail and an exquisite little plate of olives and Iberian chorizo. Further west, try to grab a sought-after seat on Toronto’s original Italian patio at Café Diplomatico (594 College St.), and watch the people go by. Call it “The Dip” to go undercover with the locals, and treat yourself to pasta alla pescatora.
Now it’s time to feed your soul. Onward to the culture spots:
Looking to catch a flick? The Royal Theatre (aka Royal Cinema) is Little Italy’s premier art-house cinema, since circa 1939. This art deco landmark regularly hosts live concerts and indie film festivals at night, in addition to its regular programming. 608 College St.
Mrs. Robinson is a throwback to the golden age of funk and soul. Named for R & B legend Sylvia Robinson, this low-lit cocktail bar nails its ’70s-inspired ambience, right down to the wall of vintage stereos. Stick around for live instrumental covers of old-school hip-hop. 574 College St.
Soundscapes is an indie music store that’s big on community. Not only can you pick up tickets for concert halls across Toronto, you can also catch live performances from local acts inside the store. Music to our ears! 572 College St.
Steps from Soundscapes, Neurotica Records is a Toronto staple for vinyl collectors, offering used records, books, video games and collectables of all sorts. Neurotica also supports homegrown talent by offering a recording studio for local artists. 567 College St.
With a name fit for a comic book cover, Super Wonder Gallery runs mind-blowing art exhibits that combine visuals and audio in odd and delightful ways. A gallery and event space that offers a range of events touching on all forms of pop culture phenomena, Super Wonder Gallery is one way to get lost in a midday fantasy. 584 College St.
Getting to Little Italy
Take the 506 streetcar westbound from Queen’s Park subway station.