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Rustic Italy gets the nod at this comely Italian restaurant in the trendy Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood. The Italian-themed menu bows with the weight of 10 kinds of pizza and 10 kinds of pasta, all of it exploding with fresh ingredients and thoughtful preparation. Vita Sociale has lots of veggie, vegan and gluten-free offerings on its menu, and dishes can be customized according to diners’ individual tastes. And mealtime is meaningfully enhanced in a space so spectacularly suited to hosting it. The main dining room features exposed brick and reclaimed barnboard walls, and 20-foot-high ceilings are decked out with majestic wrought-iron chandeliers that’ll transport you to another time and place.
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Review: La dolce Vita

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on May 30, 2013

With the price of real estate at Yonge and Eglinton, it's truly a shock that this prized postal code is home to only one very high-end restaurant: North 44. That's because the only other one, Centro, closed its doors so it could rebrand itself Vita Sociale. A great...

With the price of real estate at Yonge and Eglinton, it's truly a shock that this prized postal code is home to only one very high-end restaurant: North 44. That's because the only other one, Centro, closed its doors so it could rebrand itself Vita Sociale. A great idea.

Gone are the personal wine lockers for Toronto's upper crust, or in the words of our very colourful mayor, the "social elites". In its place is an unpretentious trattoria replete with exposed brick and 125-year-old barn board that exudes casual comfort yet still manages to suggest elegant refinement. Also thankfully gone is having to make reservations weeks in advance. And for area residents who want a nice night out with the kids, well that's another great idea, all part of a more relaxed rethink of the once tony landmark.

What has not changed are the hands: former Centro co-owner Armando Mano is still the big man in charge. And tonight even he's relaxed, drinking wine with old friends and patrons, and schmoozing his way over to gauge the reaction to his latest reveal. He never quite makes it over to our booth, but we're still well taken care of by former Centro manager/sommelier Jeremy Geyer who attends to our every need. Not only does this guy know his wine, he's even savvy enough to dumb it down for lesser wine aficionados without making you feel like the awkward rube from the sticks you really are. Yet another nice touch.

Even chef Symon Abad is a hold over, the former Centro sous chef who advanced to exec chef only last March. As expected, the menu is rife with well-loved Italian classics. To start, a peppercorn crusted beef carpaccio ($15.95) is a wee pricey for the barely three-ounce portion, but under a deep blanket of shaved parmesan and arugula cress are truly beautifully cured slivers of sweet beef that could perform solo without the accompaniment from some fresh basil pesto and olive oil. Steamed mussels ($13.95) in a wine brodo equally impresses. Pleasantly plump bivalves squirt with the flavour of a perfectly salted, French onion soup broth that, too, would be good enough served solo.

A salumi board ($16.95) features in-house creations such a stunning smoked duck prosciutto, coppa and bresaola with lovely, oily olives and large chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano even though the taste and texture remind me more of Grano Padano. Pizzas, if you want to call them that, are Roman style, instead of the Neapolitan kind that the city has lost its collective mind over. And while it sounds like a welcome departure from this crust craze, not to mention the fact that they went to a lot of trouble and expense to install a new wood-burning oven, our sampling of the tasty Petto di Vitello ($16.95) had more of the consistency of a table water cracker or communion host than a chewy pizza dough. Topped with a smattering of smoked veal brisket, rapini pesto and just-try-and-find-me provolone, this is best ordered as an opener to share. In spite of that it is a tasty surprise.

Spaghetti and meatballs (aka polpette) ($15.95) when done right is truly one of life's simple pleasures. Here, the meat, albeit tasty, is a trifle tough from being a bit too compacted, but the sauce that strikes the right balance between the sweet and the acidic is heaven sent. And I'm pretty sure there will be few complaints about the mammoth portion. But I will bitch about the fact that most of the pastas, except for the gnocchi, are not made in-house, or at least that's what our server tells us. Yet on Twitter they claim they make "#bucatini #pappardelle, #cavatelli, #ravioli #fazzoletti. Made from scratch's the only way to go!? So who am I to believe? In this case, I'll side with the kitchen because our sweet server had to go back and forth too many times to find answers to our questions.

But believe me when I say the pork and fennel sausages ($24.95) with roasted peppers and caramelized onions are indeed house made. And impressive in both size, flavour and presentation they are. Completing the meal is a Mona Lisa ($6.95) that's nothing short of a work of art, a chocolate concoction that is as decadent as it sounds: mocha mousse, a cappuccino foam topped with marshmallow and a salted caramel macaron that could and, probably should, stand alone. Yet for all its beauty, it just misses the sweet tooth bullseye.

Vita Sociale is a thoughtful reinvention of the former Centro. And though many still mourn that mainstay's passing, few can deny it was a smart business move. Transitioning from fine dining establishment to family-friendly neighbourhood eatery doesn't have to mean that more rustic casual food can't be just as satisfying a dining experience. Vita Sociale has, no surprise, proven that from the get go. Grazie!

Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
All meals are paid for, including all taxes and gratuities. All reservations are made under assumed names. Menu items, prices and individuals mentioned in this review may not be up to date. Dine.TO encourages its users to share their feedback.

12 Comments for Vita Sociale

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Would you recommend?
Went for brunch this morning and had the best waffle ever! Thank you to who ever is responsible at Vita Sociale for coming up with the weekend brunch idea we needed this at Yonge and Eglinton.
Posted on November 17, 2013

J W recommends Vita Sociale

This place is Italian food done right!! Wow!!
Posted on
Finally we have a nice place to go for weekend brunch up here. Got the flyer in my mailbox this week for the launch of brunch at Vita Sociale and had to check it out. Amazing. Nice job Armando.
Posted on October 30, 2013
Finally got a chance to check out Vita, we weren't gonna go at first cuz we wanted to watch the game, but suprisingly it was pretty wicked to find that we could order our food at the bar and enjoy the game on the Tvs also. Nice addition to the neighborhood, Good call on adding the tvs by the bar. Now we can come watch our games all the time!
Posted on October 23, 2013

s cm recommends Vita Sociale

Finally got a chance to check out Vita Sociale with the girlfriends for dinner. What can I say, it's been a very busy summer. Amazingly we booked our dinner on the night of the launch of the new fall/winter menu. It was busy but definitely well worth the wait. I'm very impressed and pleased with what the former location that housed Centro has decided to do with the new direction. My girls and I loved it and will be back soon!
Posted on
Great night out with the girls. We were in the mood for an italian style pre-thanksgiving dinner and you guys were awesome!! loved the food.
Posted on October 17, 2013
We couldn't think of a place to go for our weekly lunch out with the co-workers so my daughter suggested and made a reservation for us at Vita Sociale. A great new italian place just north of us at Castlefied. I'm happy to say we have a new favourite spot to go for our lunches. We're gonna have have to change up the days we go so we can try all of the daily lunch specials. So far I started with the Fried chicken accompanied deep fried pickle and it was amazing.
Posted on October 16, 2013
I had the pleasure of my husband taking me out for our anniversary dinner to Vita and I abosolutely loved it. The food was awesome and the service was amazing. As a bonus the management found out it was our anniversary and sent over a complimentary dessert platter. Thankyou Jeremey, we will definitely be back to sample the new menu in October.
Posted on October 10, 2013

Lisa C recommends Vita Sociale

Had dinner here once, ordered the Margherita Pizza with Gluten-Free crust, a little pricey but the atmosphere was vibrant and chic!
Posted on
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recommends Vita Sociale

Had an excellent lunch last week; love the new decor and service was relaxed and not stuffy as before.
Posted on
 Please select only one reason why you would recommend this business.