BOCCONE (1378 Yonge, at Balmoral, 416-960-1500) Complete meals for $16, including all taxes, tip and a glass of house wine. Open Monday to Friday 8 am to 6 pm, Saturday 10 am to 4 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier free. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Office types pour into this rustically appointed Italian deli/cafeteria at the lunch hour for reliable pizza, pasta and salads. They're rewarded with some extra touches that elevate the fare above the same old same old. Pizza slices are a jumping-off point. Boccone makes thin-crusters in a real pizza oven, not some sort of prefab Easybake crime against Naples. The pepperoni ($2.78) is a fresh no-nonsense wedge and, like everything else here, a deal, given the upmarket, uptown nature of the neighbourhood.
The linguine with feta, olives and spinach ($6.36) is less vibrant but wins points for quantity and lots of proper olives that haven't come from a can. The meatball sandwich ($5.05) holds its own against anything you might get further west along St. Clair: supple pork, just the right amount of mellow sauce and slippery onions and peppers.
Another winning sandwich, the Italian, has quality salami, mortadella and capicollo all piled onto Boccone's superior house-made focaccia. The voluminous triple-combo salad ($6.36) of mushrooms, bean and asparagus embraces freshness. Be aware that, in response to contemporary dietary obsessions, most of the salads come with very little in the way of dressing. The salt, vinegars and oils loiter menacingly at the end of the counter.
Maybe the best thing about Boccone is that it serves house wine - literally. The light, easygoing red and white are made in the basement and go for a super-cheap $2.95 a glass.
Desserts are a sourced-out afterthought. You're better off with a well-made cappuccino ($2) that comes with a nice little chunk of biscotti.