Benchmark Gelato (top photo)

Had another really lovely little excursion the other day with Catherine and her brilliant jazz-guitarist father, Neville. He’s just as fond of old Toronto as I am, and of course, knows far more about it’s history, and it’s character-over-time.

He makes a fantastic tour-guide for any route you can name – and I always love hearing his recollections and insights about the scene in the glory days. So many excellent tales to interleave with my own experience, and thus further enrich my picture of our odd but most-beloved burg.

I mentioned great changes along St Clair the other day in another post (Cocomilian memories), but I don’t want any of my expat friends to think all of the lovely modest landmarks have been swept away – not so at all!

We covered practically the entire length of St Clair the other night – and while there are many changes (the stockyards lands in particular, are now astoundingly mall-ified), there are still many sweet familiar anchor-points right from one end to the other.

One thing that really hit-me the other night is that much like Eglinton – St Clair manages to be a crucial crosstown artery for traffic, but remains a walkers-street of neighbourhood and character, above all else.

Little Italy is still the most important and vital cultural anchor along much of it’s length – though there is also a thriving concentration of Vietnamese business on it’s Western edge.

This simple but top-flight Gelateria near Dufferin, there for generations now, remains a popular destination for kids during the day, and for cruising teenagers at night, right up until they close the doors.

Definite summertime-must! (first place I ever had pistachio – way back in the 70s)

Night market

There is something particularly fun about stopping into a fruit market late at night – all of that product of sunshine on display, without so much as a single natural ray in sight to thank! Feels extra-decadent somehow, almost sneaky.

Small family-run independents like this bring fresh produce right out onto the street, and remind us all to impulse-buy apples on the way home (not just candy!). Sure, it’s a business, but it’s also a social good intimately connected with it’s neighbourhood. Especially helpful in an area with a lot of struggling families nearby in run-down apartment blocks.

Can’t swear they’re still like this nowadays, but I will never forget the kindness I received from such small independent shopkeepers when I was a broke kid. A bag of pasta or rice on-credit, really can make all the difference. Rare look-you-in-the-eye trust.

Not something we would ever expect from the big-chains, right? (One more reason to steer all possible dollars to little-businesses, every chance we get).

Steak on a Kaiser

This vintage grill out by the old stockyards end of St Clair was never one of my own regular stops, but it instantly reminded me not only of several of my own, but a few of Catherine’s youthful hangouts, too!

Teenagers always know the night-landscape better than anyone, and the landmarks on the way to or from a night out, are particularly sweet in memory, even when entirely unpretentious like this enduring stalwart.

It’s not about the decor or the fancy menu, but the joke Micky told that one time, after the big concert with the crazy balloon-lasers and the opening Klezmer act, and of course good old reliable C-8 on the Seeburg Consolette tucked into the back of every booth and linked, crowning the scale skyline – chromium servietter, salt shakers and mission-appropriate squeeze-bottles.

Well-done – medium-rare, too.

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