MANO A MANO
Address: 691 Corydon Ave.
Phone: 204- 414-6305
Sometimes dining is like dating. It can take a few encounters to sort deal-breaking habits out from endearing quirks and determine compatibility, particularly if the restaurant you’re courting is still finding itself.
Mano a Mano is one such affair, and we are pleased as punch to have stuck out the rocky times for the groove it’s struck today. It opened this summer to high expectations set by hot Toronto culinary talent, a slick new textured gunmetal interior and owner Sam Colosimo’s proud Italian heritage.
Neighbourhood hopes were high, with many rooting for Mano a Mano to champion the revival of Little Italy on soy-saturated Corydon. Hungry for more than inconsistent commonplace dishes, locals have rejoiced in the kitchen’s regime change.
In October, the restaurant took up with old flame, Chef Dustin Pajak (Pajak cooked for Colosimo at Brooklynn’s Bistro). Pajak’s refined rustic menu reveals a trusting relationship between restaurateur and chef. It’s an exciting-to-read culinary narrative with a clear voice.
Bruschetta topped with a housemade veal terrine certainly trumps a former social style charcuterie board. Four other open-faced sandwiches, including our favourite combo of beef carpaccio and anchovies with salsa verde and crispy fried capers, make fun starters to share and crave-satiating late night snacks (kitchen stays open until 2 am).
Each dish demonstrates Pajak’s command of balance, between textures and tastes. In a gentle wine-poached beet salad the natural wonder of fresh burrata shines on butter leaf lettuce dressed with a whisper of honey. A wonderful example of the kitchen’s scratch skill, this housemade cheese with its Mozza-like shell and buttery cream and curd centre, is a clean, ethereal sensation.
We’re sweet on a wood-fired pizza that redefines ham and pineapple for grown-ups, with close-to-caramelized pineapple, fancy Italian ham and spicy hits of serrano chile.
A not too sweet finish, olive oil gelato, touches a vanilla bean note before cloaking the palate with a silky smooth texture.
A match has certainly been made, albeit a three-way relationship between restaurant, neighbourhood and diner. We love happy endings.