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Modern Italian Restaurant Contrada Opens in Toronto

Toronto’s Little Italy is home to a new Italian-inspired restaurant, Contrada, from three young but experienced friends with community in mind.

10:41 AM EST on November 17, 2023

interior at Contrada

Contrada’s interior features modern and vintage decor.

Toronto’s robust Italian food scene keeps growing. The latest addition is Contrada, billed as a “modern casual Italian-Canadian restaurant,” which opened a few weeks back from a new partnership of three young industry vets. 

The name of the new Little Italy restaurant is the Italian word for district or ward, reflecting the owners’ wish to create a community gathering spot with great food and wine. Partners Patrick Groves, Jessie Mak, and Mike Vieira have clocked time at several of the city’s best Italian and French restaurants before joining forces on Contrada.

Contrada’s menu is imaginative and focused, with starters including giardiniera, tuna carpaccio, and sweetbreads with wild mushrooms in a marsala sauce, and in-house-made pastas such as a tagliatelle alla bolognese and a chicken liver agnolotti. Mains include a pork chop Milanese, bistecca, and eggplant prepared three ways.

Chicken liver agnolotti at Contrada in Toronto.

“The intention is not to echo classical Italian culinary traditions, but to create a menu of authentically Toronto elevated-casual fare,” Vieira, who oversees the kitchen, says in a release. "Using Italian techniques and ingredients inspired by both classical Italian and Italian-North American sources, combined with the use of Ontario’s bounty of beautiful local ingredients has allowed us to create a menu we’re really proud of.” 

The name Contrada, besides its literal meaning, has connotations that connect the restaurant to Italy.

The release notes of Contrada: “It draws inspiration from two sources, the first being the Palio di Siena, an annual summer festival and bareback horse race through the piazza wherein each Contrada shows up to represent its district. Like the Contradas of Siena, the Contrada team wishes to proudly represent the neighbourhood of Little Italy. The second refers to the region of Mount Etna, in Sicily, where wine sourced from a single contrada, akin to a single vineyard, is considered wine of an elevated quality. In this sense, Contrada aims to be a place where similarly exceptional wines can be enjoyed.”

The bar at Contrada
The bar area at Contrada in Toronto.

Indeed, the decor, which Mak, a designer and the restaurant’s general manager, employs a mix of modern vintage furniture and accents that evoke a weathered Italian wine bar. And the wines are thoughtfully curated, featuring “almost exclusively Italian wines, each one hand picked not only for its quality and flavour, but also with attention to the viticultural and winemaking philosophies of its makers,” the release notes. “For Contrada, sustainability in the vineyard is non-negotiable, and producers are given additional points for exhibiting a restrained, hands-off approach in the winery. Guests can expect elegant expressions of Italy’s classics (Chianti Classico, Barolo) as well as full-flavoured, savoury rosati (Italian rosés), elegant macerati (orange wines), and a range of sparkling options beyond the standard Prosecco, including lambrusco and other sparkling reds, Italian pet-nats and Franciacorta.”

Contrada’s opening comes at a time of growth in the Italian food community in Toronto, as Eataly unveiled its second location in the city, in the Sherway Gardens neighborhood, earlier this month. 

Contrada, 537 College St., Toronto, ON M6G 159, 416-519-3455,, 

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