City Bites

INTRODUCING: two six {ate}, Preston Street’s new late-night munchies joint opens on Friday

First-time restaurateurs Emily Ienzi and boyfriend Steve Harris have transformed the former Lindenhof restaurant into a hip new small plates spot

It’s the mom-and-pop shop re-envisioned by a new generation. You take a front-of-house girl whose family comes from Italy’s Puglia region and a boy who cooks with roots in Nova Scotia and you give them access to an urban garden and an 80-seat restaurant; toss in a coin-operated vintage Ms. PAC-MAN machine and a DJ and you’ve got the ingredients for a fun-loving new Ital-Canadian snack food joint on Preston Street called two six {ate}.

It opens officially on Friday. When I stopped by for a sneak peek of the place on Monday, the full face-lift, which began on August 17, made it unrecognizable from its former occupant, the Lindenhof restaurant.

It’s got all the hallmarks of the new breed of hipster hang-out: the tattooed chef, the reclaimed barnboard walls, the old-school cocktails, the funky lighting, and the playful menu offering an upscale twist on trashy kid food like Pogos and poutine. Words like foie gras torchon, sashimi, and heirloom tomatoes add heft to a menu that is a giddy mix of snack food nostalgia and Italian classics. There’s a kitchen that won’t quit until the wee hours of the morning, talk of nose-to-tail and seasonal cooking and a commitment to keeping it affordable — so far nothing on the menu is over 20 bucks.

After meeting the couple in question — 32-year-old ex-Allium Chef Steve Harris and his girlfriend Emily Ienzi, who was Lago’s banquette manager — I got the impression the personalities involved will infuse the place with a unique homespun vibe. Emily’s family has been heavily involved, both as financial backers for the project and as the contractor (Emily’s brother is part of Krate, the design team that also worked on Hintonburg Public House and the new Westboro Fratelli) and food suppliers (Emily’s parent have two acres of apple orchards, hundreds of tomato plants and grape vines, as well as making their own prosciutto and other Italian goodies).

Emily’s mom is even lending the family’s top-secret pan-fried calzone recipe to the cause. Steve expects it will become one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. “Those things are epic,” he says. When I ask him to describe his own cooking style, Steve calls it “fly by the seat of my pants.”  He likes messing around with whatever ingredients he has on hand and coming up with something tasty. He credits his own grandma with giving him a love of making preserves and baking fresh pies — the flavours of those East Coast summers will surely work their way into the menu as well.

Two six {ate}, 268 Preston St., 613-695-8200, twosixate.com

Grand opening: Friday, September 28

Regular Hours: Wednesday to Monday, 4 p.m.- 2 a.m.

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