Dramatic and playful, Aria delights in many ways. A swirling walnut sculpture by local artist Dennis Lin weaves its way across the ceiling; a huge two-storey wine cellar full of Italian gems shoots up near the entrance; and the circus of humanity heading to and from the Air Canada Centre is in full view through the 10-metre-high windows, a glaring contrast to the cool elegance inside.
Here, the well-dressed crowd – a mix of business- and pleasure-seekers – relaxes on putty- coloured banquettes. Hits of red punctuate the neutral tones: the waiters’ ties, the pony-hair cushions and the handsome, handmade (and handwash-only) water glasses.
Operated by the owners of Queen West staple Noce, Aria’s kitchen, headed up by chef Eron Novalaski, champions simple Italian food. Chili threads spice up the perfectly grilled octopus starter ($16), and you could make a meal of the rice balls alone ($9). Perfectly seasoned lamb is supported by rapini purée and crisp potato cannelloni ($35), while a seared filet of grouper comes swimming in a tomato and clam ragu ($29).
If you’re not in a food-induced coma after dinner, the long quartz bar bathed in pink light stays open late, deftly drawing the suits spilling out from corporate boxes across the square.
By Doug Wallace
Photos by Naomi Finlay
As featured in our Fall 2011 issue