NEW TASTE OF DANFORTH
Café Fiorentina’s plates are tasty and way wallet-friendly
by Steven Davey
Don’t come to Tina Leckie and Alex Chong’s Café Fiorentina on the Danforth expecting flaming cheese and so-so souvlaki. But do go for some of the most polished and shockingly inexpensive plates on this or any other local resto strip.
From a constantly shifting lineup, sandwiches on house-baked yeast-free sourdough come amply layered with the likes of seared rare steak, gooey Gruyère and pickled wild mushrooms or house-cured Berkshire pork belly and puréed kimchee (both $9).
Soups run the gamut from exotic duck broth with pastina to creamy potato with leek (all $5/$3.50 as a side) while the soufflé-like quiche du jour – one day portobello mushroom with Brie, the next caramelized onion with Stilton ($9 with salad/$18 whole) – is a meal in itself.
Charcuterie may be old hat on Ossington, but out here in Greektown it’s positively cutting-edge, especially when it involves impossibly thin ribbons of house-made duck prosciutto, blond bacon lardo and fatty capicollo, a slab or two of rustic terrine de campagne and a smear of pear paste ($12 with bread and pickles/$14 with a selection of aged Monforte Dairy cheese).
At weekend brunch, Leckie and Chong interpret eggs Benny as a pair of expertly poached duck eggs in lemony hollandaise over pickled beets and Georgian Bay whitefish on toasted pains au lait ($13 with salad, today smoky roasted farro in an olive oil vinaigrette).
And if their brioche French toast spread with blood orange marmalade and finished with whipped cream and maple syrup ($9) doesn’t cause a sugar rush, there’s always flourless chocolate cake ($3/$12 whole). You’ll be buzzing for days!
I’ve been waiting a long time for an upscale deli, and found it at Cafe Fiorentina.
The daytime Danforth Ave. spot serves homemade soups, sandwiches and baked goods, with a gleaming Faema E61 espresso machine and racks of cookbooks and food magazines to peruse.
Chefs/owners/life partners Tina Leckie and Alex Chong certainly don’t advertise themselves as a deli, but they channel old-school Spadina Ave. all the same.
Take the beet soup ($3). It’s borscht by any other name, albeit borscht that has gone through a food mill to become a steaming bowl of pink smoothness.
There’s also the sandwich ($9) of corned beef cheeks, cabbage and swiss.
“It’s our version of a Reuben,” says Leckie (ex-Celestin).
It’s a revelation, is what it is.
The beef cheeks are lightly corned and thinly sliced, the meat remarkably lean yet moist.
The cabbage, here red, is sweet-and-sour rather than full-on fermented. It is far less tangy than the sourdough slices the sandwich is built on.
Thin slices of gruyère stick everything together; the first few bites, when the sandwich is fresh off the panini press, lead to long strings of cheese pulling away.
The sharpness of Dijon mustard dominates; it’s mixed into mayonnaise for a nice update on the traditional Russian dressing.
It was the pickled cherries that got me. There they are in the centre of the picture – black and juicy with a peppery, spicy, sweet-sour tang – a brilliant and unexpected condiment to a small collation of Café Fiorentina’s deli delights. The Café is a brand new arrival on the Danforth, taking over the old Dash Kitchen location roughly opposite Allen’s, and is a true labour of love for owner Tina Leckie, long-time sous chef at Célestin, and her partner, Alex Chong. Having two such good cooks in the kitchen takes the place well beyond the average café. The quality of soups, salads, pizza, quiches and panini – all made from scratch – soars. Tina has also been a pastry chef so the sweet side of things and the baking is also first class, from house-made breads served with the soup to miniature brioches. The espresso – espressed from a Faema E61 (a considerable investment for the new business) – is the Danforth nonpareil.
All in all, this is a great addition to the street and I wish the place very well indeed. Café Fiorentina is at 236 Danforth Avenue.