AGE 33:


From Bar Mecurio — the French/Italian bistro renowned for dishing out fine thin crust pizza — comes its stylish one-year young off-spring, L’Espresso.

It’s a cozy Italian coffee shop and dining hot spot situated -- not in Little Italy where its chic décor would blend in -- but rather in the University of Toronto grounds of Woodsworth College at Bloor and St. George Streets of all places.

“And why not?,” say its owners, Mecurio brothers Joe, 39, and Albino, 33, who, together with their brother-inlaw, Sebastian Sanita, 30, spawned the vision of creating an “upscale Starbucks” where rich, flavourful coffees made at an open bar are masterfully blended with the elements of fine homemade cuisine amid a setting of European elegance and down-to-earth affordability.

A daily menu of specials erected on a marble table with self-serve chits greets you as you enter the 3,000 sq. ft. space.

Hang a right and you’ll find yourself sipping your cuppa java on a luxurious leather sofa. Hang a left through the champagne coloured drapes and you’ll probably find yourself lunching away on their specialty — $7.50 homemade panini sandwiches enveloped with fresh baked bread courtesy of Albino, who’s culinary skills span 15 years. Make your way further east and you’ll be basking outdoors in a 900 sq. ft. patio.

And soon to be unveiled is a private dining and conference room for corporate engagements.

“It’s all been word of mouth,” says Albino referring not only to his diverse clientele, which range from doctors and professors to secretaries and students, but also to the mass of cold calls from people wanting to throw private parties at the bistro. Even the Toronto International Film Festival has a booking or two.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a suit or sneakers, all we want is to create a cozy environment in a comfortable, classy open space with fine food and service,” says Albino.

L’Espresso serves breakfast, lunch and dinner weekdays, and brunch on weekends. Hardly anything is over $15.

Wines, beers, cocktails and martinis are also on the menu. Albino says there’s a possibility the steam from the espresso machines at dawn might be eclipsed by the sound of shakers for a martini bar at sunset in the near future.


• Location: 321 Bloor St. W.

• Telephone: 416-585-2233.