For students Maddie Taurins and Mara Da Costa Reis, living in Little Italy puts them in the heart of one of the city’s most vibrant downtown scenes.
“There’s always something going on,” says Maddie, who grew up in the area and now lives with Mara and another roommate in an apartment just south of the hot College Street strip.
For music lovers like Maddie and Mara, both 19, Soundscapes is the place to buy a new CD, nab tickets to a concert such as La Roux at The Guvernment, or even catch groups like Broken Social Scene playing right in the store. For all things literary, they may wander across the street to Balfour Books, and for second-run indie flicks, there’s the historic Royal Cinema.
Like many young people, Maddie, a fashion communications student at Ryerson, and Mara, who is completing a general arts degree at U of T, love to people-watch and College Street is the ideal place for this — either while waiting in long restaurant lineups or seated at tables out front. A favourite haunt is the Café Diplomatico (or The Dip) where the girls may sit outside on a warm evening sipping sangria and nibbling potato puffs. “It’s got the best patio and it’s cheap and homey,” says Maddie.
But the best bar by far to meet friends for drinks is Souz Dal with its cool atmosphere, says Mara.
“It’s got little candles on the tables and we love the $3 drink nights on Wednesdays.”
A good place for a quick takeout meal is Utopia, where the burgers and fries are reasonably priced, says Maddie, the only meat-eater in the household. And just around the corner from their abode is Bitondo pizzeria — one of the best deals around at $3 a slice.
Their absolute favorite restaurant, though, is Musa on nearby Dundas Street. “It has an amazing weekend brunch,” says Maddie, who typically orders the egg and cheese sandwich on halla bread with fries.
Amid the hip restaurants and youth-centred stores, including American Apparel, College Street has at least four gourmet ice cream parlours, again a favorite meeting place for students and young professionals.
But Little Italy is more than chic eateries and trendy bars. Within a stretch of six or so blocks, the girls have every amenity at their fingertips — the one-stop Splish Splash dry cleaning, laundromat and convenience store, Metro supermarket, Magnolia Fine Foods and Grace meat market, to name a few.
Despite the noisy and seemingly endless nightlife — or perhaps because of it — the girls feel right at home. “I never feel lonely or unsafe,” says Maddie. “Even walking home late at night, I usually run into someone I know.”