When it comes to labels, it’s hard to find one that carries as much weight as “OG.” And when it comes to OG spots in Toronto, places dishing up traditional eats decades after they first opened their doors, San Francesco Foods is at the top of the list. A spot that joined the Little Italy community in 1954, San Francesco Foods is serving up succulent, substantial veal sandwiches that impress as much today as they did decades ago.
“Clinton is kind of like an institution,” says Mo Nigm, director of operations for San Francesco Foods, describing the chain’s first location in Little Italy. “It’s like a magnet to that area. Even though it’s a one-lane road, you see that road during lunchtime and it’s packed. People are parking on the sidewalk, walking all over the place. We’re kind of like a hub in that area. People like the feeling, its comfort food. It feels like food your nonna makes, your mom makes.”
Founded by the Savoias, a young Italian couple who immigrated to Toronto after World War II, the first San Francesco Foods was created as a place for the community. “They wanted to open up something to bring the flavour of Italy over,” says Nigm, adding that the idea was to open a casual restaurant, “that was fairly priced and could feed the community.” Though the Savoias weren’t restaurateurs back home, as Nigm quips, “all Italian families are in the food industry. Every Italian family knows how to cook.” On the original menu, were the soon-to-be-famous, herb-breaded veal sandwiches, dressed with the Savoias’ slightly sweet marinara and nestled onto crisp Kaiser rolls.