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Par Caroline Aksich

Authentic Italian Fare in the Junction Triangle

Come Friday evening, Angolino, a bijou restaurant tucked into the heart of the Junction Triangle, is filled with supping locals who are keen to keep this Italian gem their neighbourhood secret. Since opening in 2015, the trattoria has garnered a legion of fans that come for owner Rozi Bali’s ebullient table-side service and co-owner chef Tyson Liebrecht’s rave-worthy Italian fare.

When an order of zucchini flowers hits a table, diners struggle between the desire to dig in, and the urge to Instagram the pretty plate. Instead of your by-the-book battered floral fare, chef Tyson’s version is super simple. And yet, with a mere five ingredients, it’s incredibly imaginative. Four tender blooms are packed with lemon zest–zinged ricotta, and then blistered slightly under the broiler. The finished morsels are then plated atop a zucchini puree. The resulting plate epitomizes summer with every too-good-to-talk-we’re-eating-here bite.

We were feeling nostalgic for Italy when we were working on the menu, and a lot of that has worked its way into the food. - Chef Tyson Liebrecht, co-owner
Angolino's co-owners Rozi Bali and Tyson Liebrecht have been friends since they met in culinary school.
Co-owners Rozi Bali and Tyson Liebrecht have been friends since they met in culinary school.

Recipes Passed Down from Italian Grandmothers

“When you use what’s local and fresh, you don’t need to do much to it,” says Tyson, who met Rozi in culinary school. The duo bonded during George Brown’s intense Italian Program, which flew them to Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, where they apprenticed with big name chefs like Massimo Spigaroli. “We were both senior students, so we started hanging out, not that we had much down-time during our stages – six days a week, 16-hour days  – it was nuts,” recalls Rozi.

At 46 and 37 years old, this was neither Rozi nor Tyson’s first rodeo, and so the long days in Italian kitchens are ones they both look back on fondly. Tyson had left a career in architecture to pursue his culinary passion, while Rozi had spent her whole life in restaurants, but wanted to refine her cooking chops.

“We were feeling nostalgic for Italy when we were working on the menu, and a lot of that has worked its way into the food,” says Tyson, whose culinary focus is on upgraded Nonna favourites: gnocchi in a walnut-studded gorgonzola cream sauce or wild boar meatballs served with polenta. Their agnolotti technique was actually taught to them by a bona fide Italian grandma. “She taught us that the pasta must be thin enough to see your hand through,” says Rozi.

Angolino is an Italian restaurant serving elevated Italian classics made with fresh, local ingredients.
Angolino's vanilla-kissed panna cotta served with strawberries and candied pistachios.
A vanilla-kissed panna cotta is served with strawberries and candied pistachios.

More Than Just the Taste of Italy

After graduating, Rozi and Tyson ran a catering company together (Chef Rozi Caters), but the two were hesitant to open their own restaurant. “I’ve been in the industry since I was 15,” says Rozi. “I know how easy it is to fail."

After a little nudging from her supportive husband and now business partner Christian Goulart, Rozi and Tyson plucked up the courage to open Angolino, an intimate, 26-seat room that they decorated on a shoestring budget. The resulting space is warm and unpretentious, devoid of those stereotypical Italian eatery trappings (no gingham tablecloths, nor chianti bottles, here). The only reminder that you are about to taste some authentic Italian nosh is the cheery mandolin-filled folk music echoing in the background.

Should you crave more than just the taste of Italy, you can also pop into Angolino for a weekly Italian language lesson. If you sign up for a five-week series, each lesson comes with a complimentary aperitivo such as forest mushroom–stuffed arancini. By the final session, you should be able to order your entire meal at Angolino in Italian. Buon appetito!

This 26-seat room is bustling with locals on a Friday night.
Angolino is located on the corner of Dupont and Franklin. Angolino is Italian for
Angolino is located on the corner of Dupont and Franklin. The word is Italian for "little corner, or nook."
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