Tasting event at revamped Sala San Marco venue in Little Italy welcomes new residents, features diverse cuisines

Preston Street BIA Little Italy

An event planned for later this month in Little Italy will not only serve to welcome the many new residents in the area, but will also highlight local cuisine from diverse cultures.

Lindsay Childerhose, executive director of the Preston Street BIA, says the Taste of Little Italy event will help “reintroduce” the many food establishments that have emerged from the pandemic.

The event will be held on April 23 and is the neighbourhood’s first tasting event for a few years and the first of its kind. Hosted at Sala San Marco, the event supports local arts group Fonte d’Amore Tarantella, which aims to preserve the traditional southern Italian folk dance tarantella and help shed light on the neighbourhood’s many culinary offerings.

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“It’s a chance for people to sample all of Little Italy while participating in a charity event,” said Childerhose. 

New restaurants, including Anabella’s Kitchen and Lounge, Indian restaurant Katha, Persis Grill, and food truck Smash Daddy, will showcase their flavours, Childerhose said, in addition to local cornerstone establishments such as La Roma Restaurant, in business since 1990, and La Favorita, which opened in 1986. 

The Prescott, a Preston Street staple that opened in 1941, will also participate, serving up its famous meatballs. 

The event will also allow the host venue, Sala San Marco, to show off its new event space, said Childerhose. 

During the pandemic, Sala San Marco opened Italian grocer Mercato Zacconi, but the retail space closed last year after a dispute with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) over retail alcohol sales. The space has since been transformed into an event venue, said Childerhose.

“Sala San Marco is a business that pivoted during the pandemic by opening Mercato, but then they had to close down,” explained Childerhose. “This is one of the first big events hosted in their new event room at full capacity.

“So another win of this event is supporting this business’s new offering.”

Taste of Little Italy is also an opportunity for new residents to check out the neighbourhood’s culinary scene, Childerhose said. 

Recent residential developments in Little Italy, such as the 45-storey Claridge Icon tower on the corner of Carling Avenue and Preston Street and the 30-storey, 250-unit SoHo Italia apartment complex, have brought large numbers of new residents to the neighbourhood. 

“We’re hoping many of the new residents will be able to come down from the residential towers after work, because this is a great opportunity to highlight it all,” said Childerhose. “There’s been a lot of turnover on the street and it’s becoming a diverse culinary spot.

“So this event is truly a nice reflection of what you can expect.”

The event will kickstart the neighbourhood’s busy tourism season, she added, as Preston Street prepares to welcome visitors for various festivals, including the upcoming Italian Festival and the nearby Canadian Tulip Festival at Dow’s Lake. 

“We wanted to hold it at a time that was the start of our busy season. We’re busy gearing up for tourism, so it’s an opportunity to reintroduce people to the establishments,” Childerhose said. “There are so many restaurants, and a good portion are new, so with this event we can also put them in the spotlight.”

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