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These excellent Italian spots are also making waves

Bar Buca

75 Portland, at King W, 416-599-2822,, @bucatoronto Behind the anonymous facade of a first-floor condo storefront lies the biggest thing to hit the King West strip since half-price wings at the Wheat Sheaf. The cachet of the original trat will get them in the door, but Rob Gentile’s moderately priced Tuscan-style tapas and all-day kitchen open seven days a week till 2 am will make them regulars. If they can get in, of course. Best: bruschetta dressed with duck yolk, beech mushrooms and shaved black truffle crisp baby artichokes with lemony zabaglione custard house-baked focaccia panini with virgin mozzarella and preserved cherry tomatoes, or porchetta with apple mostardo goat ‘n’ ricotta meatballs in tomato sauce studded with raisins at brunch, pork-blood crepes with chocolate-coated figs and buffalo-milk crème anglaise semolina pancakes layered with lemony mascarpone, crumbled pistachio and candied citrus in grappa-fortified maple syrup. Complete dinners for $40 per person (lunches $30), including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $10. Open daily from 11 am to 2 am coffee and pastries from 7 am. Closed some holidays. No reservations. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN

Black Skirt

974 College, at Rusholme, 416-532-7424, Rosa Gallé and Aggie Decina bring old-school rustic Italiana back to the former Little Italy. A charming room, engaging service and a no-nonsense card of Sicilian home-cooking classics add up to a trip back to a simpler time. Best: to start, grilled and skewered lamb speducci meaty white Sicilian anchovies and garlicky chopped tomato crostini grilled lamb speducci pressed muffuletta panini with tapenade, capicola, mortadella, sweet and hot soppressata and giardiniere pickles veal sandwiches in Decina-family tomato ragu with Provolone and grilled hot banana peppers spicy penne putanesca with capers, olives, garlic and anchovies grilled New Zealand lamb chops with cheesy baked mashed potatoes and rapini textbook tiramisu and pistachio cannoli. Complete dinners for $50 per person (lunches $25), including tax, tip and a glass of Chianti. Average main $25/$13. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 10 pm lunch from 10 am, dinner from 5 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, some holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN


Hey Meatball!

912 Queen E, at Logan, 647-340-6439,, @TeamHeyMeatball One-time Rosebud and Citizen owner/chef Rodney Bowers moves slightly down-market with an upscale takeaway devoted entirely to meatballs, whether naturally raised Rowe Farms beef or pork, free-range Gasparro’s chicken or house-made vegan veggie. Slick design, creative sides and a kid-friendly card mean lineups come suppertime. Also: 719 College, at Crawford, 416-546-1483. Best: the signature Rodfather sandwich, three hefty ‘balls on grilled Boulart baguette finished with simple tomato sauce and powdered parmigiano Eastender subs, Newfie takes on Halifax donairs with slow-braised roast beef, smoked provolone and grilled poblano peppers retro macaroni and cheese old-school spaghetti and meatballs chopped salads of pickled carrot and radicchio over organic greens cheesy sautéed Brussels sprouts. Complete meals for $18, including tax, tip and a house-made soda. Average main $12. Open daily 11:30 am to 9 pm daily 11:30 am to 10 pm (College). Closed some holidays. No reservations. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free two steps at door, washrooms in basement (College). Rating: NNNN

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