Offering an environment just as inspired as the restaurant’s well-travelled chef, ViaVai gives diners an authentic taste of Italy.
ViaVai, Toronto’s newest Italian pizzeria and wine bar, opened its doors on the 23rd of April, 2015. Enclosed entirely in glass, the restaurant has a ceiling that spans 4 stories, a 30-foot bar, and a large fresco mural across the back wall. However, the menu that is even more elegant than the space is what has set ViaVai on the path to become the ultimate destination to meet and be seen. The new pizzeria and wine bar showcases the fine artistry of Chef Joe Friday, who brings a world of culinary inspiration and experience to ViaVai, and one of the best Pizzaiolos in Canada, Darcy Sweet.
The 90-foot mural spanning the entire back wall of the restaurant is part of an art installation by Sandro Martini. The mural, while lending a fresh and sophisticated ambiance to the space, also played a role in the creation of ViaVai’s menu. Chef Joe Friday spent many sleepless nights lying under the sprawling painting going over the menu and taking inspiration from the artwork: “I love [the art] because it’s simple but elegant – it represents the kind of elevated simplicity I wanted to build into the menu.”
ViaVai’s menu offers a selection of Italian staples including SALUMI and FORMAGGI boards serving up an assortment of DOP meats and cheeses, of the highest authenticity and quality. The TRIO CRUDO is a seafood trio of octopus, shrimp, and trout that highlights Joe Friday’s Japanese training and sushi experience, pulling influence from the chef’s childhood growing up in Okinawa, Japan. Another notable menu item, quickly becoming a fan favourite, is the brunch CARBONARA. ViaVai turned the classic Italian dish into the perfect breakfast pasta with pancetta, topped with an egg, and flavoured with chives.
To one side of the restaurant, scaling the glass wall of the space, is the spinal cord to the pizzeria and wine bar. The tall white structure, with a design inspired by life, is where ViaVai displays its carefully selected Italian wines. The philosophy behind ViaVai’s wine program is to feature regional wine producers of Italy and bring one-of-a-kind wines that won’t be found in local stores. They offer hand selected wines from local and international wineries and one of the largest Italian wine by the glass programs in Toronto.
The cocktail menu features more classic Italian staples, such as the APEROL SPRITZ, NEGRONI, and BICICLETTA, but ViaVai has also developed a cocktail program with some more intricate concoctions. Their take on the margarita involves grapefruit and St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and their ITALIAN BREAKFAST is a bourbon cocktail flavoured with tobacco and smoke, chocolate, and espresso. The ITALIAN GARDEN makes the perfect summer aperitif with a gin base and the added freshness of muddled cucumber, lime, and fresh pepper.
About ViaVai’s Artists
Chef Joe Friday brings a lifetime of well-travelled culinary experience to the restaurant. Having studied at the Culinary Institute of America, he began his career at Walt Disney, where he quickly became the youngest Sous Chef in the company. He travelled the world cooking in Norway, England, Italy, Japan, and Hawaii. Joe Friday landed in Toronto when he helped to open Luma at the TIFF Bell Light Box. He is now a prominent player in Toronto’s culinary scene.
The experienced hand at the helm of ViaVai’s pizza oven is Darcy Sweet, one of the most talented Pizzaiolos in Canada. He is technically trained in Napoletana pizza and has worked with some of the best pizza chefs in Canada. According to Chef Joe Friday, and thanks to Darcy Sweet, ViaVai offers “pizza crust you won’t find anywhere else – authentically Italian with his own touch and a consistency that bends just the right amount.”
The fresco mural, that mirrors the elevated simplicity of the menu, was created by Sandro Martini, commissioned by the building, and unveiled in 2012. Fresco involves painting on unset plaster, and for Sandro Martini using it as his medium was an act of respecting the architecture: “it’s not a painting on the wall, it is the wall.” The installation also features painted glass panels hanging from the ceiling that work with the natural light streaming through the glass walls to cast interesting shadows on the mural. The full installation is called Glass Memory.
Hajar Moradi’s work can also be found integrated into the décor of the restaurant. She is a Toronto based Artist and Designer as well as Partner and Creative Director at Kajart Studio. Hajar’s custom drawings convey themes from Italian cinema and culture, but her graffiti style illustrations add a touch of urban modernity. In the drawing pictured below, Hajar “created a visual collage, based on a portrait of famous Italian icon Monica Bellucci, integrated visuals from the movies “The Great Beauty” and “La Dolce Vita”, and added design details inspired by the famous Italian architectural structure the Colosseum.”
In ViaVai’s future, guests can expect a menu that is constantly evolving. Acknowledging Toronto’s moving and evolving nature, Chef Joe Friday intends to keep a regular consistent menu that people can rely on, with a revolving secret menu to keep things interesting. And for guests who are truly interested in trying new and exciting cuisine, Joe Friday will not disappoint: “I’ll explore all my travels and put them on the menu.”
ViaVai is an Italian pizzeria and wine bar that represents a true taste of La Dolce Vita with elevated simplicity built into their menu and space. The menu features authentic Italian dishes with added creativity and inspiration courtesy of Chef Joe Friday’s world travels, using ingredients that merge the best DOP products of Italy with local products selected by the Chef. The wine list highlights regional wine producers of Italy, offering an extensive selection of hand picked, one-of-a-kind wines, and an Italian wine by the glass program that is one of the largest in Toronto. ViaVai’s space is fresh and sophisticated with a gallery-like elegance, and a grand bar spanning 30 feet in length, making it the perfect location for after work aperitivo, a destination to socialize and be seen. ViaVai is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and features a special brunch menu from 10am to 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays.