On King Street West between Spadina and Bathurst, Toronto

Lights, Camera, Pasta!: If you always thought you were a shoo-in for a Scorsese picture or perhaps Big Night, Ciccone’s is your place. Opened by Frank and wife Mary in 1943 under the name the Trocadero, the restaurant changed location in 1951 and has been known as Ciccone’s ever since. Ciccone’s is like walking onto a movie set, inside and out. The bright stucco building sports an olive and rusty-red colour scheme belted by a cream stripe between the windows and painted white script above. Perhaps just quaint by today’s standards, back in the 50s this joint must’ve projected an air of classy, Big City night-out kind of attitude—better put on a jacket and tie and make sure the wife wears pearls and long gloves. The interior is exactly what you’d expect: red and white checkered tablecloths, Chianti bottles like tiny wax volcanoes, midget lamps, stucco archways, wall murals of Italian cityscapes and Opera music oozing like olive oil from hidden speakers.

The Sign: Large, vertical green neon letters spell out “C I C C O N E ’ S” on a geometric Art Deco background of red. “Restaurant” runs in red neon along the bottom. Stunningly beautiful in its simplicity.
The Matchbook: Unfortunately the design doesn't live up to the restaurant. Must have been a cheapo batch made after everyone stopped smoking in the 1990s. I can't imagine it was this boring back in the 50s.

The Food: Who cares in a place like this? We enjoy the feeling that the Mafia might come in for a little snack at any moment. For the record though, it’s fantastic. The pasta is al dente, the sauce is rich yet light. The veal is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The house wine is fruity and bright. The homemade tiramisu is the best we’ve ever eaten. Ciccone’s is not just a pretty face.

Phase 1

Overheard: “There’s a romance to this place…”

Obit: On January 31st 2000, Mary Ciccone cooked up her last pot of sauce, unlocked the big wooden doors for something like the 20,000th time and waited for her first customer. After everyone had eaten, drank, sang, cried, danced and then kissed and hugged their goodbyes, she cleaned up as usual and walked over to the window. Her deeply lined face—a roadmap tracing a lifetime in her adopted city—was tinted a soft shade of green by the giant neon letters outside, as were the fluffy snowflakes that swirled and fell lazily to their concrete and asphalt beds. As a red and white streetcar clanged and rumbled by, she turned a switch and darkened her family’s proud neon name, causing a long shadow to stretch across King Street that night.

(Note: Ciccone's is now the location of hot celebrity chef Susur Lee's place, called, predictably, "Susur." On a good note, although taking down the neon "Ciccone's" letters from the sign, the sign is still there, and the exterior has been altered only slightly)

-D. LeBlanc

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