Even though we’ve had some disastrous experiences with our kids, we’re not a family that avoids restaurants—because trying new food and taking the night off from the kitchen is something we love to do.
But with four kids in tow, an outing to a restaurant is not something to be taken lightly. We are always prepared for unpredictable wait times as well as the unpredictable behavior that can come with long stretches of downtime.
When we heard about Toronto’s new PIANO PIANO restaurant, and its promise to offer an entertaining, bambini-friendly space, as well as delicious Italian food, we were intrigued.
PIANO PIANO is located east of Little Italy on Harbord Street (in the same space Splendido used to be) with the main restaurant at street level and a unique family-oriented dining space called the Piccolo Piano room below. The entire restaurant is beautifully designed with gorgeous details from the building facade to the decadent swan-inspired bathrooms.
The Piccolo dining room is an open, yet cozy space that could seat about 30 people comfortably (high chairs included), and it was definitely welcoming for the kids. My 11-year-old son walked over to the upright piano and started playing for the crowd, while my younger daughters headed straight into the playroom. My teen played it a bit cooler, by turning the menu and into a fancy colouring page.
Chef Victor Barry and his wife Nikki worked closely with certified nutritionist Danielle Binns to create a healthy and appealing menu for kids, and they’ve succeeded. Kids have a choice of creating a three-item Happy Plate or ordering from their classic kids’ menu. My six-year-old loved designing her own dinner and decided on roasted chicken, baked broccoli and blueberries (which arrived on a divided plate, one of my favourite mom tools). My nine and 11-year-old ordered the homemade pizza with veggie sticks on the side. It was such a big portion size; they could have easily shared one, but we ended up with some yummy leftovers for next day lunch boxes (bonus!).
The adult menu (which is as beautifully designed as the restaurant) had a great variety of starters, salads, pastas, mains and homemade pizzas. My husband went for the lamb (which I never make at home), while I zeroed in on the carbs section and chose the fresh ravioli in Bolognese sauce and a warm Caesar salad. My 14-year-old ordered the smaller portion size of an adult meal.
While we waited for our food to arrive, my kids headed over to the vintage Pac-Man machine for a few rounds, and we also played a round of dominoes and GO FISH with the deck of cards at the table. Kids are welcome to get up and move around the room and go in and out of the play area, too.
Once our food was served, the kids gladly came back to the table to enjoy their meal. And the food was delicious, as promised. It also arrived in a very reasonable amount of time. We were given the option to feed the kids first, and then enjoy our adult meals, but we prefer to have them eat with us. Once they were finished with their plates, we gladly excused them from the table, so my husband and I could linger over cheesecake and Americanos (the lemon cheesecake is the best piece of cheesecake I have ever had the joy of eating).
Within moments the kids were mingling with other kids that had left their tables, and I think that was the one of the best features of this new space. Everyone in the Piccolo room is there for the same reason: to enjoy a night out with family and to do so in a relaxed environment that feels more like a dinner party in someone’s home than a restaurant. It was a pleasure to raise our glasses in solidarity with the other parents in the room, and we’d gladly go back again.