Restaurant Review: DaNico – A masterful addition to Toronto’s dining scene
|Address||440 College Street|
|Dinner for two with wine pairings:||$600|
The crisp autumn air caresses my face as I approach DaNico. Set within a restored bank, its intricate architecture and pristine white façade makes a statement on the northeast corner of College and Bathurst (for context, infamous dive bar Sneaky Dee’s is across the street). DaNico, which specializes in upscale contemporary Italian cuisine, is the newest venture in Liberty Entertainment Group’s growing hospitality portfolio.
Upon entering, I’m awestruck by the uniqueness of the space. Its design is the brainchild of Nadia DiDonato, vice president and creative director of Liberty Entertainment Group. The swanky space balances modernity and tradition with grace. Classic wood accents, such as the reclaimed wood doors, meet sleek, contemporary design, fostering an ambiance that is glamorous, theatrical and romantic beyond belief. The warmly lit interior and the muffled conversations offer a welcoming embrace that is hard to resist, and my senses are immediately enchanted by the intoxicating aromas wafting from the kitchen.
Chef Daniele Corona, the Michelin-awarded chef of Don Alfonso 1890, is the brilliant mind behind DaNico’s cuisine. He weaves a rich tapestry of multicultural culinary insights, gleaned from his time abroad as well as from the vibrant, diverse kitchens of Toronto. Corona deftly melds Asian techniques with modern Italian fare and the result is jaw-dropping. At DaNico, the experience can be savored as a chef’s tasting menu priced at $225, or a three-course prix fixe menu for $150. My guest and I opt for the three-course menu and allow the incredibly talented sommelier, Justin, to select appropriate pairings.
While a range of reimagined classic cocktails is on offer, the true star of the show is DaNico’s extensive wine program, which boasts over 450 labels from Italy’s diverse wine regions, spanning from the northern regions to the southern landscapes. The wine selection caters to every palate and budget, with bottles ranging from an accessible $70 to a staggering $9,000.
Our servers, Clara and Marco, eloquently translate Corona’s culinary narrative from first sip to last bite and their hospitality is unparalleled. To start, a selection of housemade bread. Next, the baccalà mantecato emerges—a silky mixture of rehydrated salt cod dances in harmonious union with the subtle notes of Taggiasca olives and an unctuous embrace of olive oil. And then, we encounter Corona’s interpretation of the classic Caprese salad. Here, tradition meets innovation in a burst of vibrant colours and flavours. A bright tomato gel cradles creamy mozzarella in its tender embrace. The dish is further elevated with the grace of shaved parmigiano, providing a nuanced layer of umami, and a sprinkle of micro basil.
As part of the antipasti course, I’m mesmerized by the Uovo Biologico and Kombucha Sorbetto. A culinary masterpiece, it unites an organic egg, sous vide at precisely 65°C, with a medley of seared vegetables. The egg, a luscious orb of golden perfection, yields an explosion of creamy richness that harmonizes beautifully with the garden-fresh asparagus, tender fava beans, vibrant kale buds, and plump fresh peas—all meticulously seared to preserve their natural essence. A crowning touch of tonburi adds a touch of opulence and complexity, while the kombucha sorbetto refreshes the palate with its tanginess.
The Granchio al Gusto Mediterraneo has the most artistic presentation I’ve seen in recent memory. To start, the dish is framed by a house-made floral tuille and edible flowers that’s almost too pretty to eat. The wild red King Crab is set in a clarified green olive coulis complemented by an ensemble of crispy seasonal vegetables that deliver a satisfying crunch, but the pièce de résistance is the trout roe, offering a burst of oceanic brininess that harmonizes perfectly with the Sicilian green olive coulis. Each bite is a harmonious symphony, celebrating the bountiful Mediterranean, where land and sea unite in exquisite harmony.
The stage is set for the primi course. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Chef approaching our table with a sous chef in tow. He abruptly orders the dishes back to the kitchen as something has happened en route to the table. I appreciate his fine attention to detail and his desire to instill the same values in his team. A few minutes later, he approaches again the with Spaghettoni al Funghi Locali e Tartufo Nero, a masterful composition that fuses local and Italian flavours. Spaghettoni pasta from Gragnano’s “Pastificio dei Campi” takes the spotlight, boiled in an extraction of organic Ontario mushrooms, infusing each strand with woodland essence. Parmigiano Reggiano, aged for 24 months, adds depth, while the fresh Italian black truffle, elevates the dish to pure decadence.
We also sample the Riso All’Amalfitana, which immediately transports me to the sun-kissed Amalfi Coast. Carnaroli rice, lovingly referred to as “buono,” dances in a lemon broth, its grains kissed by citrusy zest and is spooned over an arrangement of Mediterranean red shrimp, scallop, and amberjack crudo, invoking the flavours of the sea. Fresh mandarin marmalade from Sorrento imparts sweetness, while zucchini flower pesto adds an herbaceous flourish.
I delve into secondi, starting with the Merluzzo Nero. Delicate black cod, tender and cooked to perfection, is artfully deglazed with miso, creating a sublime, buttery texture. It’s accompanied by crisp white asparagus, a generous sprinkle of Ossetra sturgeon caviar, and a velvety vermouth sauce that ties it all together. It’s an experience that lingers long after the last bite.
Finally, a succulent Japanese A5 Wagyu tenderloin practically melts under the gentle pressure of my knife. On an adjacent mini Japanese grill, thinly sliced, crisped potatoes and a shishito pepper filled with a blend of ricotta and guanciale, adds a charismatic zing. This ensemble dances in unison, harmonizing umami and a gentle heat—a narrative where Japanese finesse waltzes with Italian flair.
We eagerly anticipate the grand finale – a delightful journey into the realm of desserts, and we sample all three on the menu. The Bosco Delle Fragole is a whimsical twist on a strawberry panna cotta and features a rhubarb infusion, accompanied by artisanal goat’s milk ice cream, and a drizzle of olive oil. While this dessert is impressive beyond belief, the wine pairing, a 2021 German Graacher Himmelreich Rieslingfrom producer Joh. Jos Prum, is an exquisite match that leaves nothing to be desired. The sweet ending continues with the Fichi e Ciccolato Fendente, where cocoa sponge harmonizes with rich Guanaja 70% dark chocolate ganache. A fig confit adds a delightful sweetness, while house-made fig ice cream completes this masterpiece. Japanese influences are also apparent with the final dessert—the Matcha Tea Misu. Mascarpone and espresso foam entwine, adorned with matcha pearls and a captivating matcha rock. Finally, a delicious collection of petit fours, is presented on a glass cloche. I reach for a white Valrhona chocolate-dipped canelé, which leaves a lasting impression.
DaNico, while embracing elements of Italian culinary traditions, simultaneously writes its own chapter, infusing every dish with a contemporary flair that is both unexpected and entirely welcome. From aperitif to dolce, it is, without a doubt, a masterful addition to Toronto’s dining scene. If you’re planning just one reservation this fall, I wholeheartedly recommend dining at DaNico. It’s a culinary journey that promises unforgettable moments and flavours that linger in your memory long after the meal ends. Bravo to the entire team!
Mme M. xoxo
La rubrique de Madame Marie
1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
2 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
3 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
4 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
5 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.