For the last 14 years, Jessica “Jess” Allen, correspondent on CTV’s The Social, has lived in Roncesvalles Village. Located in Toronto’s west end, it is the heart of the city’s Polish community. Allen loves the European feel of the area, which is full of small grocers and specialty food stores. “I’ll be on the way home and think, ‘Oh, this is what we’re going to have for dinner,’ and everything is literally at the end of the street.” She singles out Alimentari Italian Grocery (325 Roncesvalles Ave.) for its fresh pasta and porchetta sandwiches.
When Allen feels like dining out, she and partner Simon head to family-run Café Polonez (195 Roncesvalles Ave.). “We get the Hungarian [potato] pancakes. They could easily feed a family of four, but we order one each.” When she and Simon want to “do it up nice,” the couple dines on Mediterranean-style plates at Brothers Food & Wine (1240 Bay St.). “You feel like you’re in really good hands,” she says. “You don’t have to make too many decisions, which is nice when you go out.”
One place Allen really loves is Mattachioni (1617 Dupont St.), run by David Mattachioni, who used to work at popular Toronto restaurant chain Terroni. “His pizzas are so delicious. You always see neighbourhood people going in with their kids or getting takeout. It’s a hidden gem.”
When it comes to play dates with her nephew, Allen likes to visit Grange Park, located behind the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). “They have a little splash pad, a view of the gorgeous AGO building, and now they have moved the Henry Moore sculpture Large Two Forms there. It’s pretty charming.”
For a bit of shopping, Allen likes to visit In Vintage We Trust (1580 Queen St. W.), which specializes in clothing from the last century. “The guy who runs it is an encyclopedia on the history of everything from L.L. Bean and Ralph Lauren to military wear and Nike,’” she says. “He will talk to you for an hour about where the buttons came from. It’s a wonderful experience.”