Toronto, ON M6J 1W3
Bar Vendetta is the newest Dundas West installation from powerhouse restaurateur Jen Agg. In the space of former foodie haven The Black Hoof, Vendetta is a laid-back pasta and wine bar pouring unique bottles and serving creative and unpretentious dishes.
Bar Vendetta is open from Sunday through Thursday, which is an admittedly ballsy move for a restaurant, as business is usually at its peak on the weekends. But Bar Vendetta is not suffering. In fact, they are finding that on a weekly basis there are a ton of familiar faces that walk through the door. Creating a community atmosphere is not something to be scoffed at and it reinforces what most already knew; Jen Agg has a knack for making guests feel welcome.
The homey atmosphere is reminiscent of a '70s basement with lots of texture encompassed in a sea of orange, cream and brown. The quasi-psychedelic wallpaper and vintage posters make this spot feel all the more lived in, which gives the guests a cue to relax.
The menu at Bar Vendetta is short and sweet. As it is a pasta and wine bar, the dishes here are the perfect accompaniment to a glass or bottle of vino. There are the Italian classics like bruschetta, meatballs and a selection of traditional pastas. But each one has its own spin added by chef and partner James Santon. These twists are not unbelievably outright, but they make each dish a Bar Vendetta original.
First the meatballs ($13). Served under a mound of parmesan, these fennel and garlicky balls come in a simple tomato sauce with a slice of their homemade black sesame sourdough garlic bread. The bread here is made in house by Holger Schrool and is almost as good as the meatballs themselves.
The trecce ($17) has melt-in-your-mouth noodles coated in a pureed broccolini, anchovies and garlic pesto and mixed with mushrooms, crispy guanciale and a tangy taleggio cheese.
The crown cacio e pepe's ($19) house-made pasta is stuffed with soft ricotta and topped in the traditional cacio e pepe sauce with a twist. The trick here is a sprinkle of lemon zest that brightens the entire dish.
The nachos ($12) are only available after midnight. These crispy, cheese coated snacks are the ultimate late-night bite, dolloped with fresh sour cream and sprinkled with the classic accoutrements. Night owls come one, come all.
Bar Vendetta is a wine bar first, restaurant second. The wine list here, like Agg’s other hotspots around town, is an impeccable collection of bottles you actually want to drink. The list is decorated with regional Canadian and European producers (nothing over $165), but Italy does seem to dominate (no surprise there).
The coolest part about the wine list at Bar Vendetta is the partnership that Agg has with Tawse Winery in Niagara. At the moment they have a Pinot Noir Rosé called Le Swan and a Grey Gardens Pinot Gris and soon enough there will be a Bar Vendetta Gamay sitting at the top of the list. Talk about a house wine.
Bar Vendetta is not just a restaurant, it’s a vibe. From the moment you enter the sliding doors, you’re transported into the '70s and escorted through Jen Agg's intricate creation. The thoughtful design is accompanied by the sound of Seal & Crofts singing Summer Breeze over the loud but not overbearing speaker.
There is wood panelling above the bar, posters from artists like Sonic Youth and Cigarettes after Sex plastered on the wall, and spy decal on the other. The restaurant is subdued, but not in a way that makes it less impressive. It, like its owner, is effortlessly cool.