Stories of badass women who chase their dreams and build their lives through grit, perseverance and iron-clad will, will forever inspire me. I didn’t know that when I posted my last blog post about my own mom, I would have another opportunity to write about someone else's mom. I have been lucky enough to meet a friend's mom who has a food story worth telling.
On Facebook, my friend was reaching out to food bloggers in Toronto to cover her mom’s new spot. She told me that her mom just took over a restaurant called The Fresh Italian Eatery. She promised me scrumptious eats and delicious conversation. An offer that I could not refuse. It’s winter in Toronto and the only thing worth eating right now is carbs, amirite? Normally, a restaurant opening of any kind wouldn’t elicit from me any response other than “oh, cool!” But this time was different. Ms. Kim is a Korean woman who decided to create Italian food in downtown Toronto. Whoa. I was undeniably intrigued. I was certain there had to be an interesting backstory to this cultural mashup. This wasn’t going to be a story of some white dude who decided to open a taco joint because he really likes tacos and stayed in a resort in Mexico *that one time*. I was stoked to find out about how Ms. Kim came to be an owner of The Fresh Italian Eatery.
When I arrived at The Village by the Grange, Ms. Kim’s smile literally beamed. Some welcome warmth from the blustery winter cold. If you know nothing about The Village by The Grange - know that it’s a great food hub. It’s located close to U of T, 52 Division, OCAD and the Art Gallery of Ontario. If you’re in the neighbourhood, you certainly should make a point of popping in. You can find all kinds of delectable goods in this little complex with a random mix-up of fare. If you don’t believe me, check out this blog post from BlogTo - Village by the Grange is Toronto’s Most Underrated Food Court (Note - that some of the tenants have changed since this was posted in 2016).
Ms. Kim and I didn’t do a whole lot of conversing. But, it is overwhelmingly evident that Ms. Kim is warm, generous, and kind-hearted. I would also eventually discover she can make a meeeeaaaan lasagna. Ms. Kim decided to purchase The Fresh Italian Eatery after a terrible fiasco with her former sublessor to whom she diligently paid rent, but who readily took her money and had failed to pay the landlord, for two whole years. The small space that she was subletting was in arrears and she lost her business, as she had no rights as a sublessee. This was an unimaginable position to be in. She was responsible, hardworking, and had always paid her rent on time. She had done everything right. But, an unscrupulous asshole pocketed her hard-earned cash, leading to the demise of her little business. When shit hits the fan what do you do? You can cry and wallow for a little while. You are definitely allowed to feel all of your shitty feelings. But, eventually, you have to pick yourself up and figure it out.
In 2012, The Fresh Italian Eatery was opened by Marco. He prepared his nonna’s recipes including fresh and well made pastas, beautiful eggplant parmesan sandwiches and homemade chicken noodle soup. However, in just a few years after opening, he had a change of heart and decided to sell his business. And, this is where Ms. Kim came upon her next business venture after her devastating loss. This time, however, she had an opportunity to own her very own business where she had autonomy and control.
As mentioned earlier, Ms. Kim is Korean, born and raised. She had literally zero reference point for the flavour of marinara sauce, ravioli and eggplant parmesan sandwiches, far less how to prepare these carbolicious delights. But, she learned how to create these Italian recipes from Marco via his nonna, and perfected them with the help of her friends and family who happily taste tested and provided feedback along the way. Wonderfully fresh sauces full of juicy ripe tomato flavour, pastas cooked al dente, and, a mouth-watering lasagna that I bought two containers of, to share with my partner and friend. It was saucy, cheesy and beefy. Each bite was delicious. If you find your way lingering around Dundas and McCaul - I highly recommend visiting Fresh Italian Eatery. Or, eating your way around The Grange. This is mall food I can get behind.