It’s in these humble beginnings of the summer months, I find myself most cherishing of company. Just as the Spring comes to a close, with buds permanently affixed for the long summer days ahead is the company of others largely appreciated. As flowers patiently await their timely end in the fall, just as the effervescent summer sun comes to a fade, the tradition of breaking bread truly come to light.

On 12 Amelia Street, nestled in the heart of Cabbage Town, I find myself, along with a charming companion in the form of my long time friend and editor of this publication, strolling in on a cool Wednesday evening not too long ago. Along a line of houses there is a single unassuming restaurant which has recently, much like the awakening of summer, found itself in high critical acclaim.

F’Amelia, appropriately named, is where one goes to break bread; delicious bread, in fact. Walking through the wooden entrance door, a welcoming cabin-style interior immediately invites a feeling of warmth similar to that received in the most nostalgic visits to the childhood home we all hold dear in our memory. The floors, of characteristic Parisian black and white marble class mediates pretention with the homey feelings received by the rustic brick pizza oven central to the experience, and peeking into every visual horizon, regardless of one’s seat. The bar area stands to the right, parallel to a row of wines and glasses seated on chestnut shelving, and adjacent to a large blackboard with scribblings of recommended red and whites. Atop the bar the message “bevilo!…vino fa canta” reflects the overall summer atmosphere of F’Amelia; living in the moment…and enjoying it. The layout of the restaurant is the expected and can only be best described as a true modernistic renovation, yet with all the same familiarity of Nonna’s house; a dining area to the left, another straight ahead, all somehow connected with window cut-outs and vases of flowers placed on the sill. A large jug on one particular strip contains enormous flowers peeking into a dining room holding a large wine pantry on display. White French doors line the wine cabinets, appearing just as the large Gable roof comes to a close. Another set appear just across the bar, and another separating the inner dining area from the large embracing patio outside. The mismatched seating, all wooden and of dark stain, add the perfect touch of completeness; the familiarity of the grooves on the back of the chair, yet covered in an unexpected shade.

The food similarly reflects this style, congruent in every aspect. We meticulously examine the menu as our waiter offers us focaccia genovese and roman focacia, which I’m told is a 72 hour held pizza dough. Calamari with arugula, cherry tomatoes, green olives, capers and chili oil; Chilled pea soup with fresh mint; Beef carpaccio with pickled honey mushrooms and ramps, shaved parmigiano and mache salad and we’ve only made it to the Antipasti menu. The Piatti Principali offer not much choice, but a deliciously interesting limited selection instead; Tagliatelle with braised rabbit, fava beans and wild mushrooms; Risotto with spicy lamb sausage, baby spinach and pecorino; and Fresh apple and celery risotto with seared scallops to name a few. As our waiter takes our order, we are reminded that local Ontario produce is featured, and all pastas, breads and salumi are made in-house. Our plates arrive, baked lasagna still sizzling. The Funghi pizza is so large our naturally reaction is to wonder how much of it will truly be consumed, yet by the third bite, our worry dissipates completely. We make our way, eventually, towards the Dolci menu. Brulee lemon tart with rhubarb compote; Ontario strawberry budino; and Vanilla panna cotta with sour cherries among others are offered, but I choose the always reliable Tiramisu. As can be expected, the espresso-soaked savoiardi blend well with the cool whipped creamy concoction.

As our food, conversation, and expectedly, the night, come to a close, I realize the warmth and welcome of F’Amelia is not limited to the company I’m in, but the overall experience. What F’Amelia truly offers, beyond the food and ambiance, is, if even for a few short hours, to feel like famiglia.

Published in: Vivo Magazine; Summer, 2013

In Good Company: Making Famiglia at F’Amelia

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