Longtime Montreal young professional (YP) staple Buonanotte officially opened the doors to its new Toronto location on Tuesday, January 22nd at a launch party that drew in the who’s who of Toronto’s (and some of Montreal’s) most influential entertainment, media, business and athletic figures. Montreal’s superstar restaurant, a timeless piece of the city’s lifestyle and entertainment, takes over the coveted real estate at 19 Mercer Street, most recently the former AME, and, previously, as you may recall, former celeb hangout Rain. “We have had both the former owners of AME and Rain here, and they both barely recognized the place,” said co-owner Massimo Lecas, on Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the official launch party. It later became one of the coldest evenings of the year, but that didn’t stop the easy-on-the-eyes guests from piling in once the sun went down.
The first thing to catch the eye when you walk through the doors of Buonanotte Toronto is the encased wall of white plates, all prestine except for two that are adorned with fresh ink. This is The Buonanotte Wall of Fame. Its Montreal counterpart features creatively customized plates signed by more than 300 VIP diners that include the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey Jr. and Lenny Kravitz, plus many more. The fresh Toronto Wall now features the signatures of Habs players, Tomas Kaberle and P.K. Subban, who were guests during the restaurant’s recent series of pre-launch friends-and-family dinners. We suspect the wall will steadily acquire more ink, as Buonanotte Toronto becomes a sure hot spot for visiting celebrities and professional athletes. The Buonanotte brand is, after all, associated with glamour and an energetic, yet sophisticated environment. It maintains a longstanding reputation for providing that ultimate “good night” that results in an exchange of stories with friends the next day, comforting and authentic Italian cuisine and, of course, its beautiful servers (all of whom were made even more beautiful opening night thanks to the neighbouring Salon Daniel).
Buonanotte is the vision of Massimo Lecas, Angelo Leone and Robbie Pesut, who opened Buonanotte Montreal over 20 years ago. The new Toronto hot spot is under the leadership of Ted Walker, Managing Director, Buonanotte Toronto and President of Infinite Hospitality Group, a full-service hospitality and development company. To bring the best in Toronto hospitality, Buonanotte has partnered with the man once dubbed as the king of the city’s nightlife, Charles Khabouth of INK Entertainment (Guvernment, This is London, Uniun Nightclub, Cube, La Societe and partners in Weslodge, Storys and Tattoo Rock Parlour) for this second location. INK’s specialty in dining and Toronto nightlife influences Buonanotte’s style, flair and overall atmosphere without taking away from its signature roots. Buonanotte Toronto offers a welcoming environment where guests are treated like family by the unpretentious staff (bartender Mallory has become a quick favourite), offering a refreshing new option to the Toronto social scene.
The space was fully updated by renowned designer Irfan Bukhari of Bukhari Design. It offers a contemporary take on a classic Italian restaurant, sleek and sophisticated with a modern twist but is still warm and inviting with a bustling open kitchen and massive wood oven. Highlights include leather and hardwood furniture, signature wooden paneling, a black and white vintage-photo feature wall and custom floating silver bulb lighting that has a rain shower effect and was designed to feature the ceiling installation. The most unique and distinctive feature of the restaurant is the copper lattice ceiling that covers the entire space and mimics the one in Montreal.
As for the menu, Lecas tells is it is “80 percent Montreal, 20 percent Toronto,” but Walker stresses that they are open to modifications to adapt to the Toronto market and to take advantage of local products. Behind the helm of the restaurant is Head Chef Davide Ianacci from Gorgonzola, Italy, who comes with a vast portfolio of experience, including working under one of the best chefs in Italy, Gualtiero Marchesi, during his time at the Amerigo Vespucci Culinary Institute in Milan. The menu includes a selection of pizzas, pastas and seafood dishes, all made from traditional recipes with a strict policy on using only the freshest local ingredients. One of the most popular dishes is the Cappesante: seared scallops with white bean puree, smoked pancetta and candied tomato. We got to try this on the soft opening back in December and, we must say, it did not disappoint us picky scallop people.
Perhaps the most comforting element of the Buonanotte brand is its sentimental and nostalgic attachment to the food. Some of Chef Ianacci’s dishes still originate from his mother and grandmother; old, truly authentic recipes that have yet to fail. When asked of his favourite dish, Lecas smiles. It’s a no-brainer: the gnocchi. He tells us it is sentimental to him because his now 84-year-old father has handmade the restaurant’s signature dish in Montreal “since day #1” and still comes to work every day. A replica of his famed recipe is made at the Toronto location here. As for Walker, he is partial to the Agnolotti or the recently-modified Branzino, a reflection of the Toronto-specific modifications as Lecas tells us, which is now adapted with preparation techniques of the cod and complimented with different sides like sautéed kale and garlic chips.
Keeping with Montreal’s tradition of a restaurant-come-lounge, Buonanotte Toronto features live DJs Wednesday through Saturday. Known for his innovative techniques of live remixing and bridging together various genres of music to create one big sound, DJ M Kutz is Buonanotte’s resident DJ on Fridays and Saturdays. For the “bottle service only set,” you can order all the Grey Goose bottles you desire with bottle service available both nights beginning at 11:30pm. As Lecas tells us, “we always discuss the fact that we are not only a restaurant, we are an entertainment destination.” Both him and Walker are, however, against the now overly used term “supper club.” “The term ‘supper club has become as unique as soup of the day,” says Lecas. Both seasoned restaurateurs highlight that Buonanotte is up and running 80 hours a week, with only four of those (precious) hours where they “have fun with the clientele” from midnight until 2am on both Friday and Saturday. “A lot of people just focus on those four hours and forget about the other 76,” Lecas tells us, stressing that the restaurant experience comes first, because “having a good time is easy, no matter where you are.” An unmatched culinary experience, however, is a little trickier.
What makes Buonanotte such a hot destination for the city’s stylish set of young professionals? “The young professional demographic is always connected, with a fast-paced brain processing mentality, and are constantly multitasking and comparing options,” says Lecas. “We are catering to a generation of short attention spans and living in a city where people have options and are well-informed.” That’s why new spots like Buonanotte must “continuously give them more,” in an ultimate experience that “touches upon all the senses, all packaged into one,” as Walker explains. Therefore, it is all in the detail. That’s why the cuisine maintains its traditional comfort, the design elements are well thought out, the servers are dressed in the latest fashions (for the opening they wore sparkly gold dresses designed by Montreal-based Barila), they have some of the most coveted DJs in the city and continue to source and keep up with trends. Buonanotte Montreal’s 21-year existence is a testament that the strategy is working.
For more, check it out for yourself. Just don’t call it a supper club.
Mon – Thu: 11:30 am – 12:00 am
Fri: 11:30 am – 2:00 am
Sat: 5:00 pm – 2:00 am
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