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.
“I love that place. They make great gluten-free pizza,” I answered. I’d already included a mention of Big Mamma’s Boy in the “Allergy Awareness” section of the Frommer’s Toronto guidebook, noting that my favorite of their pizzas is topped with goat cheese, fresh garlic, kalamata olives, and hot capicolla. I’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. “Their 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,” she wrote back. There was more to Big Mamma’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 Toronto’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 — which includes Eggs Benedict and rice-flour pancakes — is available gluten-free. I’d thought of Big Mamma’s Boy as a favorite pizza place, but its options are far more impressive. Helen could have said I told you so… but she didn’t. She is such a good friend.
Big Mamma’s Boy [address] 554 Parliament Street (one block south of Wellesley Street East), Toronto, Ontario, Canada [tel] 416-927-1593 [web] www.bigmammasboy.ca