East Side Story
Why the Danforth neighbourhood is becoming Toronto’s newest hotspotby Sarah El-Riffaey
A few businesses have popped up on the Danforth recently that will have you feeling like you took a trip across town without leaving your favourite neighbourhood. Talking with some of the owners and employees, it quickly becomes clear why this east-end stretch is the city’s hidden gem.
Ziliotto, 592 Danforth Avenue
Opened in the spring of 2010 by Jennifer Durand (née Ziliotto), a midtown-Toronto native, the Danforth location has a fan base from the well-established Queen West store. Hosting unique and stylish women’s clothing, Durand opened her first store in the Distillery District in 2001 after moving back from Paris where she had been working as the assistant to the accessory designer at Chanel. The Distillery District location has since closed, but the Queen West location has been in business for four years. When asked about her expectations for the Danforth location, she confidently says, “I knew we would do well.” She had been familiar with the area and now lives nearby, which is one of the reasons she cited when asked why she chose the location. What did surprise her was how welcomed she felt by the community. “We were so well accepted. The people in the neighbourhood are excited by the new developments and are proud of the renaissance that the area is going through. They’re proud of what the Danforth is becoming.”
Pizzeria Libretto, 550 Danforth Avenue
The successful restaurant, which found its niche on the popular Ossington stretch between Queen and Dundas, is prepared to fill the need for new, trendy culinary ideas. “The Danforth is well established, but it’s tired. It needs some fun new concepts to rejuvenate it,” says Max Rimaldi, proprietor of Pizzeria Libretto. The Danforth location recently opened to great reviews, with Toronto Life saying Libretto’s charm lies in “simple food with bold flavours.” While Rimaldi expects a different clientele than the typical adventurous foodie, he says that he wants to cater to those looking for a similar experience to that of his Queen West restaurant without having to travel so far. “They deserve something here too,” he says, referring to the younger crowd who has, until now, had to travel for the type of unique dining experience Pizzeria Libretto offers. While he is eager for his restaurant to offer a trendy spot for diners, he also wants to be known for the laid back, family-style atmosphere that he originally strove for.
Balisi, 439 Danforth Avenue
A popular shoe and accessory boutique known to host one-of-a-kind brands, Balisi has four locations across the city: on the Queen West stretch, in Little Italy, at Yonge and Eglinton, and now on Danforth Avenue. Ariel Kroon, formerly one of the junior stylists from the Danforth store, commented on the friendliness of the people on the Danforth: “It’s welcoming, not intimidating, and the people are amazing… [they’re] happy and their style is so unique.” They are also loyal shoppers. “We get a lot of people who are returning customers, who love the shoes and come specifically to Balisi to buy what they want.”