Am I the only one who loves being tipped off about hidden gems around Toronto or the GTA?  I’m sure you know the kind of place I’m talking about: it’s that amazing restaurant that is somehow unknown to the food critics; the take-out joint that has been serving the best burgers/pizza/whatever forever; or the mom and pop shop that genuinely makes you feel at home.

 So, I’ve been thinking about some of the great places that I frequent and realized that they would be considered hidden gems by anyone not familiar with them.  So, why keep them a secret?  I’m happy to share them with you; but before I do, I hope you’ll do the same for us. Don’t keep Cucina Mauro a secret!  Tell your friends and family about us, and if you are so inclined and you’ve used our services in the past, we would be eternally grateful if you could take a minute and give us a review on google, if you haven’t already done so.  All you have to do is click here to go to our Google profile and then click on “write a review”.  Thanks in advance!

 Now, without further adieu, for the first time, my list of hidden gems (in no particular order):

 Rustic Bakery, 318 Rustic Road, North York

Easily one of the best old-school Italian bakeries north of St. Clair Avenue.  Amazing bread, and even better old-school Italian atmosphere, both inside and out, nestled in a residential area full of many first-generation Italian immigrants.  When Cucina Mauro clients ask to include buns in their order, this is where it comes from.

 Nonna B’s, 2 Blue Springs Road, North York

 If you’re in Rustic Bakery’s neighbourhood, then be sure to walk up the street and just around the corner and say hello to John at Nonna B’s, a full-fledged butcher shop tucked into the back of his residential property (don’t worry, it’s legit and has full public health inspection posted right on the door).  John makes the best speducci in town (the only ones Cucina Mauro uses if schedules don’t allow time for us to make our own), not to mention other amazing prepared meats and preserves.  Ask him about his connections in Toronto’s restaurant scene.  You’ll be amazed.

 San Antonio Seafood Market, 8383 Weston Road, Woodbridge

Heading north to Woodbridge, you’ll find this gem near Langstaff and Highway 400.  Amazing selection and quality of seafood, and an even more amazing little seafood restaurant tucked in with their market. You will not be disappointed.

 Cosenza Bakery, 471 Jevlan Drive, Woodbridge

Once in the Langstaff and 400 area, you’ve hit the motherload, including Cosenza Bakery, named after the region in Calabria, Italy that my parents emigrated from.   This no-frills bakery is about as old-school as it gets.  Nothing fancy here, which is precisely what makes it great. This is a bread bakery. Period. Full Stop.  Sure, there are some other things for sale, but this is where the nonnas and nonnos are stopping to pick up some loaves of traditional Calabrese pita bread to have with their Sunday pranzo.

 Sweet Boutique, 471 Jevlan Drive, Woodbridge

Right next door to Cosenza Bakery, is Sweet Boutique, which is the yin to Cosenza Bakery’s yang.  If Cosenza Bakery is great because of its no-frills authenticity, then Sweet Boutique is amazing because it has all the charm of a classic street-side café in Rome, with stunning displays of house made pastries and cookies, cornettos stuffed with prosciutto, and so much more.

 Grande Cheese, 468 Jevlan Drive, Woodbridge

Directly across the street from Cosenza Bakery and Sweet Boutique, you’ll find the Woodbridge location of Grande Cheese.  As soon as you step in the front door, you’ll be struck with the odour of an amazing selection of fresh cheeses, many of which are house-made.  They also feature a great pizza bar with one of the best deals for a party-size pizza anywhere in the GTA.

 Quality Cheese, 111 Jevlan Drive, Woodbridge

Head a little further south and you’ll find Quality Cheese.  Another great purveyor and producer of amazingly fresh cheeses.  They are renowned for their fresh ricotta. Get there at the right time and you can grab some while it’s still warm!

 Eddystone Meats, 245 Eddystone Avenue, North York

North-west Toronto is full of first-generation Italian immigrants, and this is where many of them come to get their meat. This family-run establishment is one of those places that you would never expect to find where it is. There is a huge meat counter with high quality cuts of all kind. A deli counter with all of the Italian standards, and a great hot-table that has the lunch crowed lining up every day.

That’s it, for now! There are many more that could be added to that list and to those I’ve missed, I apologize.  We’ll do a part two soon! In the meantime, if there are any that you think I’ve missed, feel free to let me know below in the comments.

Happy shopping!