TORONTO — For one day last week, Trattoria Nervosa travelled back in time to 1996 when it first opened the doors of the little yellow house on the corner of Yorkville and Bellair in Toronto’s tony Yorkville neighbourhood. To celebrate the milestone, Janet Zuccarini, founder and co-owner of the restaurant, returned to 1996 pricing for the menu items as a way to thank her legion of loyal customers.
According to the company’s website, “We have been a part of countless special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, first dates, graduations and we want our community to take part in the reminiscing. With a full and grateful heart, we will be featuring the impact, big or small, Nervosa has left on those who have stepped into our little home.”
The beloved eatery has remained relatively unchanged through the years and ever since its construction in the late 1800s. What’s also remained constant is the love affair Torontonians have with this intimate restaurant located on 75 Yorkville. Starting on the first floor and small patio, the restaurant has evolved over the years to include an upstairs floor, and during these COVID times, the patio has expanded onto Bellair, which is now closed to car traffic.
Over the quarter of a century of its history, the restaurant has attracted a who’s who of celebrities, but also a legion of regulars who visit to indulge in all things Italian, including pizza, pasta and vino as well as in one of the city’s most authentic Italian experiences.
Opened by Zuccarini as the first restaurant in an empire that now includes 10 restaurants, her passion to open a restaurant was fuelled by her upbringing as the daughter of an Italian immigrant whose entrepreneurial zeal sparked his foray into the equipment-supplies business, as distributor of the first espresso machine to Canada.
From an early age, Janet would help her dad sell espresso machines to restaurants and cafes across the city, sparking a love of the food industry.
It was while she was selling an espresso machine to the restaurant’s previous owners that she found out they were looking for another partner. That’s when she suddenly determined she wanted in. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the early days of the business, Zuccarini and COO Demetrio Bianco, did every job imaginable to support their passion and home away from home; bussing, hosting, serving, slinging pizzas, bookkeeping, and many more. Today, Janet has 10 (and counting) restaurants, to which she always says she couldn’t have done it without her ‘work husband, Dee’
Among the menu items highlighted through the one-day celebration were a mix of appetizers including Funghi (oyster mushrooms, rucola, parmigiano $9.95); Bruschetta $6.95, and salads such as Rucola (cherry tomatoes, parmigiano, red onions, balsamic vinaigrette $5.95); Caprese featuring buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, basil $9.95; Insalata di Pollo with mixed greens, chicken breast, oyster mushrooms, goat cheese, and sundried tomatoes $12.95; as well as pastas including Capellini with tomato sauce, sundried tomatoes, and goat cheese $8.95; Spaghetti alle Vongole with manila claims, white wine, garlic, and parsley $11.95; Rigatoni Bolognese with veal and beef ragu’, parmigiano $9.95; and Risotto ai Funghi featuring local field and porcini mushrooms, and truffle oil at $8.95.
In addition to the special throwback menu pricing, the restaurant also featured a 1990s soundtrack and original uniforms from 1996 as well as special anniversary merchandise.