The food: Pasta at Black Skirt restaurant
The Yonge & Bloor area (near TIFF venue the Varsity Cinemas), contains many cheap and cheerful restaurants, mostly serving food of so-so quality. A cut above is Black Skirt, an Italian restaurant located in a less than pretty (overlooking the back of the Brass Rail and a Starbucks) yet convenient location on Charles Street just east of Yonge Street.
The menu is traditional, simple, rustic Italian, the service friendly, the patio pleasant. On a recent visit, bread was brought to the table with a bruschetta-like chopped tomato and garlic mixture that wasn’t bruschetta (the waitress called it another name I didn’t catch) in a mortar. We were urged to crush the tomatoes with the provided pestle and eat the mixture on the bread, which we did, and liked it, though the bread was soft and bland in way that bespeaks of industrial baking. The mixture was sweet, fresh and tart, though.
I’m a sucker for arancini (I might have to go on an arancini-seeking tour of North America someday) so I ordered Black Skirt’s appetizer version (with ground veal, mozzarella and peas), which was tasty without the proferred tomato sauce and tastier still with it, though $8 for one rice ball seemed a trifle expensive.
After that, in keeping with our belief that one can never have too many carbs in a meal, E and I ordered two pastas to share, one a beyond simple spaghetti with ricotta and parmesan, the other a farfalle bolognese, which was that day’s special. Both were priced at $14, which again seemed a little steep for the smallish portion size – and hey, some shredded Reggiano would have been nice instead of the powdered stuff – though both dishes of pasta pleased us with their purity and simplicity.
Some other Yonge & Bloor food spots to try between films when you don’t have the time to sit and dine on rustic Italian fare at Black Skirt: there’s a full range of high-toned and expensive gourmet takeout at the Holt Renfrew food shop on Bloor in the store’s basement level; more spiffy takeout fare (and groceries!) at Pusateri’s at Yorkville and Bay; folksier but still gourmet part-Asian-inflected takeout at Dinah’s Cupboard, on Cumberland, between Bay and Bloor; artisanal breads, sandwiches, and some nice little madeleine cookies at Le Pain Quotidien on Yonge at Yorkville; designer sandwiches at MBCo in Yorkville behind the Roots store; and a great selection of cheeses at the Alex Farm Cheese shop in the Manulife Centre (same building as the Varsity Cinema).