There’s been a not-so-quiet movement happening, just ask anyone who lives in Vegandale, er, excuse me, Parkdale. The vegan lifestyle is taking over, the health benefits are obvious, or for some, the price animals pay is just too heavy of a burden. Restaurants are taking note, and when once it would require a reservation at a restaurant specializing in veggie delights, there are now more than a few that are adapting and welcoming both carnivores and their vegetable-opting counterparts.
We chatted with Margie Cook, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator (VLCE) who’s been in charge of the vegan menu at Il Fornello. She’s pretty much a straight-up wizard for creating and adapting recipes with a broad appeal. Vegan versions of Greek and Italian classics, with a too-convincing “feta”-all brine-y and crumbly, hit all the right notes for those who adopted the vegan diet, but are just as satisfying for someone who hasn’t.

Il Fornello’s Greek Salad

Margie’s own oil-free Kale Caesar (lead photo) proves to be as classic as the egg and anchovy original. Using avocado and cashews, the dressing is umami-rich and reaches that peak garlic note, with capers filling in for fish, it’s pretty perfect. It’s honing in on those food memories, according to Margie, that’s the success of a recipe. You’re tapping into some supremely personal and individual flavour histories, notes of long-gone barbecues, birthday parties, or departed relatives.

Il Fornello’s Rigatoni Bolognese

Mains offer the same appeal, homemade and handmade pasta with creamy sauce, showcasing Margie’s talents. The vegan menu at Il Fornello is two pages long, not sequestered to the bottom flap, here, celebrated and detailed, with a complete list of ingredients for allergies and intolerances on the back. It’s brilliant for anyone who needs this sort of information and should be commonplace in today’s allergy-aware society.

Il Fornello’s Margarita Pizza

No Italian meal would be complete without a dousing of Parmesan cheese, and it’s little details like this that deliver the full experience of food memory. It’s not just a substitution or an omission, it’s a full-on commitment to being a destination for vegans, and their friends.

Il Fornello’s Spaghetti

Il Fornello’s Agnolotti in Butter Sauce

If you’re looking to tap some vegan friends for tipping a few pints, then Northern Maverick is a strong contender. The expansive space at King and Bathurst works hard to achieve some balance and offers more than just salads for the vegan set. Smokey and spot on, Chef’s Local veg board is a stunner, a board to unite both- anything but basic, and definitely not boring.

Northern Maverick’s Smoked Vegan Veg Board

And late-night vegan eats are king at Toronto institution Sneaky Dees. From nachos to Mexican-inspired eats, Sneaky Dee’s excels at delivering the greasy grinds that encompass late-night eats, but their brunches should not be overlooked either.
And while I can’t vouch for the authenticity, as they sold out as fast as they got to market, vegan pals have promised that A&W’s Beyond Meat burger is the real deal. The fast food giant has made major strides in offering vegan finds. Stay tuned as we investigate these burgers further!

Have a vegan-friendly menu that you dig? Leave us a comment below and let us know what’s good! Thanks to Margie and the Il Fornello team for the intro to your menu!
All photos by Libby Roach.