A Vegetarian Discovery to Rememeber – Italian Vegetarian Magic in Yorkville at Mela Café

5 Comments

One of the things I love most about exploring Toronto is being surprised and confused by my sightings and discoveries in neighbourhoods I’ve been to a hundred times over.  I know it sounds strange, but it’s true!  You’re walking around an enclave you’ve been to so many times before and BAM!  you catch sight of an adorable, snazzy little café or store or restaurant and you immediately do a double-take and wonder: how in the world did I miss this??  You can live in an area and still be unaware of the gems just around the corner and it’s actually not as weird as it sounds.  At times we’re either caught up in our own day-to-day hustle and bustle, drowning things out, or strolling along in our own little bubble, alone with our thoughts, completely oblivious to our surroundings.  But trust me, when you find that special something and realize it’s been under your nose the whole time, it’s like stepping into a goldmine.  It’s so rewarding and this is exactly how I felt when I discovered Mela Café, an adorable Italian vegetarian and vegan eatery in Yorkville, just west of Yonge, this past fall.

Yes, you read right.  Italian vegetarian! 😀  A place that serves authentic delicious Italian pastas and sandwiches and soups and desserts, all free of meat and incredibly affordable.  I love this place so much.  Not just because the food is amazing and so fresh and wholesome, but because of where the passion for the food comes from and the feelings of comfort the café evokes.  If I had to choose one word to describe it, it would be “homey”.  The decor is very cute; bright blue, green, and dark orange paint on the walls, huge cans of crushed tomatoes are stacked on the kitchen shelves, and a blackboard menu shows the day’s vegetarian and vegan eats.

As for the passion, chef and owner Roberto Granata was born and raised in Italy*, and transforms simple vegetables and ingredients into authentic Italian fare.  The kitchen is clearly visible from the dining area and Roberto shows off his cooking skills from morning to night, preparing the day’s dishes.  The daily menu changes, but think fresh vegetarian lasagna with lentils, broccoli, and carrots, ricotta stuffed ravioli, breaded eggplant panini, potato and mushroom pie, mashed sweet potatoes mixed with rapini, and tiramisu and freshly baked muffins.  Oh, and lots and lots of fresh tomato sauce.  And this list isn’t even exhaustive!

Just recently I enjoyed the eggplant panini sandwich and oh my goodness is this ever delicious to the max!  Sandwiched between a crusty baguette are lots of crispy, mouthwatering wedges of breaded eggplant and fresh basil leaves, served on a plate with lots of tomato sauce for dipping!  This panini sandwich is all sorts of amazingness.  It packs so much flavour and eating it is seriously like having a flavour boxing match in your mouth.  The large basil leaves give the sandwich a punch of spicy freshness, the breaded eggplant has a delicious crispy saltiness to it, and the soft crusty bread sops up the juiciness from the tomato sauce.  I could eat here every day for a month and not miss meat. 

The prices here are also fantastic.  Every dish is under $10 with most of them hovering around $6-$8.50, and soups and desserts come in at around $4.50.  This place is lovely and so cozy and homey and even though the space is small (definitely keep that in mind during lunch and dinner rush hours!), it’s the perfect place to have enjoy a quiet meal on your own while perusing through Yorkville and to enjoy a lunch date with a friend.  Or in my case, with my boyfriend 🙂  Along with Kale Eatery and King’s Café, this is an absolute vegetarian & vegan goldmine and one of the best foodie discoveries ever.

*****

Mela Café is located at 7 Yorkville Ave., north of Cumberland St. and just west of Yonge St.

* = source from The Toronto Star, April 18, 2010

Scrapbooking materials used: neon green and orange cardstock (Recollections); sky/ocean blue cardstock (DCVW); magenta cardstock (Best Occasions); flower embellishments (K&Company); cardboard frame embellishments (Winners); journalling card (Anna Griffin, Darcy Collection); 5-petal flower paper punch (ek success); circle paper punch (ek success); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); corner round paper punch (ek success); aluminum foil.

This Little Piggy Went to the (St.Lawrence) Market – Part II

2 Comments

And that, my dear lovelies, is where I bought the bulk of my dinner the other day 😀  European Delight, located on the lower level of the St.Lawrence Market, serving everything from pasta, schnitzel, meatballs, and pastries.  I hope you all enjoyed the pictures from yesterday!  Going to the St. Lawrence Market is always a huge treat for me; it’s a feast for the eyes and the tummy!  I fell in love with the market years ago, but funny enough, I fell in love with the antique counterpart market first before anything else. 

Here’s the deal: the St. Lawerence Market located on the south side of Front St.E (where all the pictures from yesterday and today come from) is open from Tuesday to Saturday, but closed on Sundays and Mondays.  Sundays is when the rest of the fun takes place 😀  Right across the street is the north St. Lawrence building where an antique market opens its doors from 5am to 5pm, selling heart-pumpingly gorgeous vintage jewelry, beautiful antiques, collectibles, and novelty toys.  Trust me when I say you better make sure your wallet is nice and plump with cash if you plan on making a trip here because you cannot leave this market without picking up a few treasures, it is amazing.  I have picked up so many sweet pieces of vintage jewelry among other things over the years and there’s always something new to see.  So there you have it my dears, now you know where to eat 6 days a week and where to shop on the 7th!  Just kidding.  Sort of.  I’ll leave that up to you.

St.Lawrence Market screams comfort food to me.  Wholesome food at some fantastic prices.  For an indecisive person like myself, it’s insanely difficult narrowing down the choices on what to nosh on.  Do I want a snack?  Do I want something hearty?  Do I want dessert afterward?  Will I be too full for dessert?  I drive myself bananas asking myself these questions!  One thing that I have a reeeeally hard time resisting though is cheese.  I know it’s fattening.  And this is me telling you that for the time being, I do not care!  I have a soft yummy spot for antipasto items like sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and anything stuffed with cheese!  So enters these little yummies here up top that you can get for $2.50/100 g at one of the fresh cheese and antipasto merchants.  Fresh provolone stuffed tomatoes with some seriously good kick to them!  This was me while I was gorging on them:

“These…*pant, pant* are so… *pant, pant* good!” *pant*  I know.  I’m a real piece of work.

They’re called “cherry bombs” (how cute!) and I can certainly see (or rather taste) why.  But I assure that the spicy kick is the reeeeally good kind of kick.  And the starring role in my dinner?  A nice big, gooey, yummy, chunky sqaure of meat lasagna.  Oh man was this ever good.  From the European Delight vendor (pictured at the beginning of the post), I’m accustomed to getting the scrumptious potato cheddar perogies with the hefty dollop of sour cream.  This time around though, I was craving lasagna like nobody’s business and took the plunge with a generous square the size of my head (okay, I might be exaggerating a little, but it was big!).

Savoury tomato sauce and ground meat enveloped in layers and layers of soft lasagna noodles, topped with a nice thick layer of baked, golden browned cheese.  Colour me elated!  I soothed my craving for lasagna and I got my cheese fix.  Knockin’ ’em down two at a time!  This lasagna was amazing; I can take or leave meat in my lasagna so by golly, the noodles and cheese absolutely did it for me.  Forkful after forkful, this lasagna was SO satisfying and not salty or mushy or overcookied in the least.  This is where it’s at!  And for $5.75?  Sweet!  The lasagna (along with many other yummies at this eatery) are priced by weight, so depending on how big your sqaure is, it can be lower or higher in price.  As well, they offer vegetarian lasagna if you’re not feelin’ the meat.

I was a little stuffed after my meal, so no pictures of any dessert this time (I know, awwww) but you know I’ll be back.  There are just some places and things you can’t get enough of 🙂

*****

The St. Lawrence Market is located at 92-95 Front St. E, at the intersection of Front St.E and Lower Jarvis.  From Tuesday-Thursday, their hours of operation are from 8am-6pm, Fridays from 8am-7pm, and Saturdays from 5am-5pm.