Via VaiYou know what’s tough about organising a dinner for 12? Trying to find a venue that’s large enough, price-appealing, foodie-friendly, vegetarian-friendly, and can … on those very, very, very rare occasions (in my life) … accommodate children. Now, try doing this during the three weeks of Toronto’s Summerlicious season.

And so it was, after many a disappointing phone call to many a restaurant, I chanced upon a review of Via Vai.

The universe had shown me the way.

From the moment you walk into the massive glass box on the corner of Bay & Grosvenor Streets, you’re swept away by the expansive space. With plenty of sunlight streaming in, it didn’t feel at all awkward to be sitting indoors with your sunglasses on.

Like a giant canvas, splatters of paint adorned the walls and windows, complementing the massive wall of art behind the main bar, flanked on one side by a soaring tower of wine bottles.

Via Vai
Whoever stocks this rack is clearly not acrophobic.

As anyone with children can attest, from the moment we were seated, the young ones had to be entertained. Fortunately, Via Vai came to the rescue, inviting the kids to join the pizza chef in the open kitchen. The young ones were completely engaged as they watched our pizzas being prepared from scratch, thus giving their parents enough reprieve to enjoy a glass of wine and some (albeit brief) adult conversation.

As for the food, it was very, very good.

Via Vai
Via Vai
Via Vai

Via Vai
Duck Confit Pizza

The restaurant served up some bruschetta, on the house, to whet our appetites before the shared apps and mains arrived.

Our Formaggi starter had a great mix of cheeses, pickled vegetables, homemade preserves and the softest, darn breadsticks to top it off. It was so good, we ended up ordering it a second time.

The Tortellini was cooked to perfection, with braised beef cheeks, porcini mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes and tossed in a bone marrow reduction. However, a heavy dose of garlic overshadowed the taste of everything else, but given my love for garlic, didn’t bother me as much as my dining partners.

The pizzas were incredibly delicious, and while the All’Anatra (duck confit pizza with pear stracchino) was my top pick, the Diavola (with sopressatta, fior de latte and cremini mushrooms) came a very close second.

Overall, Via Vai is an excellent choice for a casual dinner with friends, and given its convenient location, it’s only a matter of time until this hidden gem is discovered.

One caveat though – given all the white furnishings, it may not be advisable to have young children in tow. While the management and staff were incredibly accommodating, we could sense their discomfort as they eyed the kids and their crayons.

Still, the service was exceptional and I definitely plan to return for Via Vai’s chilled out vibe, stylish surroundings, and great menu.

Via Vai

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