In 2007, after 12 successful years, Terroni on Victoria Street decided to move its location to the stunning and beautiful Courthouse on Adelaide Street East.
That same year Cosimo’s wife, Elena, of Pugliese origin, who moved to Toronto for love at the age of 23, dreamed to bring a little piece of Italy to her Canadian city. She was inspired by the desire to have a typical osteria with quality daily specials at an affordable price in her adoptive home. This is how Osteria Ciceri e Tria came about.
This restaurant followed the same tradition as Terroni: simple food, an informal and easygoing atmosphere with a Pugliese influence. Expert gastronomists, who came directly from Puglia to showcase their regional traditions, created the menu.
Once seated, guests are greeted with assaggini [small appetizers] just like they do it in Bari (Puglia).
Even the name of this osteria is 100 per cent Pugliese. Ciceri e Tria is a typical Pugliese dish made up of chickpeas (ciceri) and handmade, hand cut pasta (tria).
Today, this kind of laid-back concept of a simple menu featuring high quality ingredients is pretty popular in Toronto. But eight years ago it was no easy feat to introduce this style of dining.
In 2010 the space next to Osteria Ciceri e Tria became available. Cosimo decided to take it over to open La Bettola di Terroni: an edited menu with traditional dishes and an interesting wine list made up mostly of Cavinona bottles (Terroni’s partner wine agency). The two restaurants shared the same entrance, the kitchens were back to back, the chefs naturally started to collaborate on the menus. At this point, it made sense to merge the two places.
Today the restaurant, lead by Sicilian chef Costantino Guzzo, features mainly typical Southern Italian foods. The assaggini originally from the Osteria are still on the menu and you can be paired with unique wines that are often made with obscure grape varietals from small producers. In other words, a perfect marriage.
BACK IN THE DAY: OSTERIA E BETTOLA
The term osteria means: “public room, a place where drinks — but mainly wine — are served accompanied by simple meals.” The word is derived from Latin, meaning foreigner, traveller to host.
Osterias go back to ancient Rome where they originated as refreshment spots for travellers passing through. Often plain and bare, they started as places to meet and be restored. Wine was ever-present, sometimes accompanied by food, bedrooms and prostitution.
In the mid-1800s, with the beginning of foreign tourism in Italy, the term osteria took on the meaning of a pleasant place where common people could drink inexpensive-but-good wine and eat tasty local foods — all for a good price — and often in a charming setting.
The term bettola derives from the Latin “bevettola,” which means “place where you can drink.” Bettolas used to be shady taverns, usually frequented by criminals and people of the lowest class.
In Italian when a place is referred to as a bettola it’s basically a hole in the wall and it’s been around forever. You go there for a glass of wine, a bite to eat and everything — and everyone — is familiar.
Today, ironically, many refined and stylish restaurants proudly call themselves osterias.