We didn't set out for Forno Cultura, but I’m glad that’s where we ended up. After a failed venture to Portland Variety for a coffee we were left deflated and disappointed, but mostly still hungry.
So there we were, at the corner of King and Portland, with a “Thank you for your support” sign taped to the door of Portland Variety’s covered windows. Bummer.
Chris and I decided to keep walking and discovered that this pocket of King West actually has some fire stuff going on.
Many restaurants that I’ve seen on social media or heard of through word of mouth were scattered all along the way—Bar Buca, Oretta, Lee, Porchetta & Co., Weslodge, Patria… we even came across that cute beauty bar, Majesty’s Pleasure!
But, when we saw people entering and leaving Forno Cultura by the dozens, we decided to head down the steps to this partially underground Italian cafe and bakery.
Immediately, I was entranced. Lots on the go, but it was a good kind of commotion, and exciting surge of good people enjoying good food and having a good time doing good for their community—if I could describe it.
Walking in, the decadent smells of cannoli cream and savory tomato sauce bombarded my senses. Shimmying past baker’s racks of packaged biscotti and palmiers made that day, Chris and I shuffled in between the two long rows of dining tables in the centre of the eatery and pressed against a glass wall where kitchen hands worked their magic.
Walking further, my eyes found themselves glancing at racks of baked breads and wooden shelves stacked with artisanal olive oils, local honeys, dried trofie, containers of pestos and books about the power of bread.
While my feet lead me to the front counter where panini and pizza and pastries find themselves carefully lined in neat rows, as workers waltz between each other helping customers at the counter, making espresso and packaging cookies.
Naturally, this was all very poetic for me and as I am writing this, it has literally given me nostalgia for a place I visited two days ago. In a sense, this little eatery is everything I hope to one day achieve. Effortless but with a purpose, #FornoCultura's culture makes you feel like you are family.
Hell, waiting for a sandwich, I was served samples of pistachio cookies and olive oil because hey, why not treat your customers like family that’s come peeking into your kitchen at lunch? I love that. Honestly.
Taking a seat by the back glass window, we feasted on a prosciutto sandwich, a peachy pesche pastry and a cannolo, washed down with an americano and espresso. I also grabbed a pretty package of palmiers for the road.
In continuation of all the feelings that I was feeling, the food only made things better. The panino, which was so thoughtful cut in half for Chris and I to split, tasted like it had been personally made for you with love. Just a baguette, provolone, mozzarella , prosciutto slices and arugula, but so tasty.
The pastries were also super incredible—light and airy cream filled inside a flaky cannoli and citrusy mascarpone goodness sandwiched between two moist halves of our peachy bombolone. I definitely felt like what we were enjoying was a genuine demonstration of passion and a labour of love.
Also, I have to say that I’m not usually a creature of habit, but while Chris was in town, we visited Forno Cultura three out of the three days he was here. Once for coffee, once for sandwiches and pastries, and (maybe) once to feel an Italian’s love.
With locations across the Toronto, I encourage you to give them a shot. You won’t be disappointed, just beware that not all locations have a cafe with a huge selection of sandwiches and such like at their King location. But, it doesn’t even matter because just a coffee and cannoli is enough to make you fall in love.
'Til next time, Forno Cultura! XOXO
Have you been to Forno Cultura? Are you as obsessed as I am?