I blame the name for misleading me. This three-year-old Little Italy pastry shop is much more than simply biscotti. Judging by the number of regulars I saw being greeted by name and the frequency with which I heard them requesting their favourite sandwiches without consulting the menu (“You got a chicken parm for me?”; “Any tuna melts today?”) it’s clear that this place is no secret lunch spot.
As it turns out, I was guilty of two wrong assumptions: 1) that Simply Biscotti is basically a takeout counter and 2) that it’s a place for sweets and coffee only. While they do a brisk takeout business, there is actually more seating here than meets the eye. In addition to the window seat with stools and a trio of high tops on the main floor, the big surprise for me was the whole second floor with two cozy sitting areas. The outdoor patio is pretty terrific too — love the brick fountain.
Sweets are certainly front and centre — tiramisu, cannoli, tarts, cookies, cakes, and cornets — though the savoury side seems to get equal attention. In addition to the regular menu of paninis and salads, there are several daily lunch specials; on my last visit these included a lovely looking spinach and feta frittata and tortellini soup (which had a surprising number of takers in spite of 40-degree weather). My choice for lunch that day was a wickedly rich and creamy combination of goat’s cheese, sautéed rapini (dare I say, one of the most underrated vegetables), and sweet roasted red pepper on a fresh focaccia; all grilled in the panini press, which created crisp contrast to the soft and gooey filling. Divine.
The other thing that impressed me was the wonderful variety of cool beverages. There are all sorts of Italian sodas made with flavoured syrups (choices included blueberry and watermelon), or a refreshing variation made with crushed ice called granita. On the dessert end of things there are two more treats that caught by eye: the nutella frappé (ice, milk, and nutella, with or without a shot of espresso!!) and the homemade ice cream sandwich.
Owner Rosa Pino is busy planning her second location that should be open by early August in the heart of Westboro. I cannot think of a neighbourhood that wouldn’t benefit from a warm, homey Italian café of its own. Richmond Road’s Pub Grub Alley is lucky to be next on the list.
Simply Biscotti, 354 Preston St., 613-234-5336, (Westboro location, coming soon!)