Pas-ta fork: Italian shop in Toronto neighbourhood makes homemade pasta

Famiglia Baldassare, opened in 2016 on Geary Avenue. It's a hot spot for fresh homemade pasta. Stella Acquisto reports.

By Stella Acquisto

Leandro Baldassarre opened up Famiglia Baldassarre, an open concept kitchen on Geary Avenue, in 2016. The pasta joint has become so popular with lunch crowds that people line up to get their hands on a dish.

The pasta shop is located near the neighbourhood of Wallace Emerson, which is situated north of Bloor Street Street in between the Junction Triangle and Dovercourt Park.

Leandro started cooking professionally in Toronto when he was around 18 years old before moving to Italy where he worked at a Michelin star restaurant.

“I came back to Toronto and started my business as a wholesale pasta producer only,” says Leandro.

“I did that for about seven years. I had a basement on College that was my production facility and then we moved up here [in] 2016.”

It was at this location where Leandro decided to open his doors to the public, selling his pasta and some simple, ready-made, pasta dishes.

“I started doing production in here as well. It was a bigger space. I had more electricity, better industrials, infrastructure. And then since we were on the street, I’m like alright well let’s try selling some pasta to some people too … let’s open the door.”

“The advantage of not being in a basement, we did that for a little bit and then I said why don’t we cook some pasta too and make it really cheap, really simple, like the way I would want to eat it and see it how that works. That kind of took off too and now we’re here. We do a little bit of all of it, wholesale, retail and lunch, three days a week.”

Leandro says the inspiration behind his culinary journey is his grandmother, as well as David Lee – who he worked for at Splendido – and the Santini family, who own the Michelin 3-star restaurant Dal Pescatore in Italy.

In addition to making some great pasta dishes, the chef also gives back to the community.

“Early on in the pandemic a friend of mine, Connor down at Sugo and Conzo’s pizzeria, they were fully shut down. They didn’t have this kind of retail set up,” says Leandro. “He immediately kind of emptied out his fridges, packaged it out and started bringing it to families in need. And then he gave me a call, he’s like look, ‘I got way more stuff here if you want to help’ … we started doing that.”

Leandro said they were also contacted by the City of Toronto’s social development department.

“[There were like] look we have a list of high-priority, food insecure areas, that if you guys want to help we would love for you guys to jump on board,” he said.

“To this day we stayed in contact with the Rexdale hub … the Albion Neighbourhood Services. They have Boys and Girls Club and they do direct outreach to homeless and we’ve been donating a dollar of every lunch since then.”

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