My friend Helen is an expert on all things Toronto. (Like me, she is a guidebook author; she co-writes the Rough Guide to Toronto.) Before my last visit to Toronto, she wrote to me about a restaurant called Big Mamma’s Boy, and its many gluten-free offerings.
â€œI love that place. They make great gluten-free pizza,â€ I answered. Iâ€™d already included a mention of Big Mammaâ€™s Boy in the â€œAllergy Awarenessâ€ section of the Frommerâ€™s Toronto guidebook, noting that my favorite of their pizzas is topped with goat cheese, fresh garlic, kalamata olives, and hot capicolla. Iâ€™d planned to mention it on the Gluten-Free Guidebook in a round-up about favorite pizza places. I do love pizza, after all.
But Helen was insistent. â€œTheir entire brunch is available gluten-free, they use organic, local produce wherever possible, their eggs are free-range, and on their dinner menu almost everything is available gluten free,â€ she wrote back. There was more to Big Mammaâ€™s Boy than great pizza? We made a dinner date there for my next trip.
The place was much the way I remembered it: located in Cabbagetown, one of Torontoâ€™s most charming neighborhoods, the restaurant is in a 19th-century row house with crimson walls, Corinthian columns, and Victorian details (note the chandeliers above). There is a patio in the backyard for warm-weather dining. What surprised me was the lengthy menu. It contains the long list of gluten-free pizzas I remembered… and so much more. In fact, all but one appetizer on the dinner menu (the spring rolls) can be made in a celiac-safe version. Cabbage rolls, pulled-pork sandwiches, and slow-cooked ribs all tempted me, but I ordered the lasagna, which combined naturally raised beef with mushrooms, spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, homemade tomato sauce, and brown rice pasta (the lasagna is only available in a gluten-free version). It came with a delicious salad of baby greens with pomegranate vinaigrette.
Dessert was just as memorable: a rich flourless chocolate cake served with whipped cream. Before we left, I discovered that Helen was right about brunch: the entire menu â€” which includes Eggs Benedict and rice-flour pancakes â€” is available gluten-free. Iâ€™d thought of Big Mammaâ€™s Boy as a favorite pizza place, but its options are far more impressive. Helen could have said I told you soâ€¦ but she didnâ€™t. She is such a good friend.
Big Mammaâ€™s Boy [address] 554 Parliament Street (one block south of Wellesley Street East), Toronto, Ontario, Canada [tel] 416-927-1593 [web] www.bigmammasboy.ca