AUNTI PASTA (258 Dupont, at Spadina, 416-513-0987) Complete takeout meals for $12 per person, including all taxes and tip. Average main $5. Open Monday to Saturday 8 am to 3:30 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door, counter seating, no washrooms. Rating: NNN
Sometimes being made redundant is a blessing in disguise.
“I was in the label business for 12 years,” says Aunti Pasta’s Maria Valentini, owner of the Annex’s tiniest take-away. “When new management came in and downsized me, I could have kissed their feet.”
Out of a job, she turned to her first love – old-school southern Italian cooking – and opened Aunti this past August in the particularly cramped quarters that originally housed Jennifer Italiano’s Live Organic.
It’s very much a shoestring operation, and most of the menu available any day usually coincides with whatever catering gig Valentini has going.
Though I miss out on her heralded lasagna and veggie fritters two days running, I easily wolf down two portions of today’s special, halved yellow bell peppers ($4.50) stuffed with rice, mussels and blue cheese, despite the unnecessary inclusion of tinny canned black olives.
The house’s meaty chili ($4.50) is just that. A terrific raw broccoli, carrot and red cabbage slaw ($5.50 large) comes dressed in syrupy mayo tossed with dried cranberries and crunchy roasted edamame.
Although the daily soup ($3.50) contains a veritable kitchen sink of veggies (corn kernels, tomato, carrot, onion, cabbage, celery, broccoli and both green and romano beans), its flavours are strong and straightforward.
Now, where’s that lasagna?