By Paula Roy –
The food and drink scene on Wellington West just got a little more fun thanks to the arrival of Pubblico Eatery, a sports bar with a New York City vibe and an Italian-inspired menu. Located in the former home of Agave Grill, this family-friendly spot is co-owned by Rod Castro and Rani Aramoui, owners of Hintonburg’s 10Fourteen Bar, along with Vinny Cuccaro, whose family owned Capone’s Restaurant on Carling Avenue for 30 years.
Unabashed fans of the Big Apple, the business partners said they drew their inspiration for Pubblico from the streets of Brooklyn. They’ve happily realized their ambition to have Brooklyn lager on tap, a mission they said they’d achieve “come hell or high water,” according to Rod.
Pubblico opened in late February with a menu offering a great selection of what they describe as Italian comfort food, including toasted ravioli, chicken parmesan sandwiches and – proving to be extremely popular – their take on Brooklyn Pie. For those not familiar with this delicacy, it’s a thin crust cheese pizza, designed to be foldable and eaten as street food. Pubblico sells it by the slice or you can order a whole pie, to which additional toppings can be added if desired. “We did some serious reconnoitering ourselves to make sure we understood what a Brooklyn pie is supposed to be like,” notes Rani.
The menu is based on simple, signature items that Pubblico’s kitchen team can execute consistently well, and the food is supported by friendly, efficient service. “This is a neighbourhood that understands and appreciates quality so it was very important for us to be sure we got everything right from the beginning,” says Rod.
The impetus for Pubblico came from six years of getting to know the community. “We learned there were lots of people from Wellington Village who came to Hintonburg but were looking for a place to hang out closer to home. We wanted to provide a spot with a great vibe where people would be likely to run into someone they know, or make a new friend on the spot,” explains Rod, adding that both he and Rani live in the area.
While Pubblico is decorated with jerseys and other memorabilia plus multiple television screens, the emphasis on sports is not oppressive. “We consciously wanted to create a space that was approachable for everyone,” says Rani. “In addition to our excellent food, we have interesting wines and creative cocktails so it’s not just a beer bar to hang out in when your favourite team is playing. We also have a kids’ menu and high chairs so we really want to welcome everyone to come and join us for some authentic hospitality.”
The name speaks to public houses and welcoming the public, but with an Italian twist. Interestingly, they have managed to incorporate the establishment’s Wellington Street West address into the logo, where a stylized 1331 can be seen in the ‘UBBI’ of the name. It’s an intentional homage to 10Fourteen’s name, located at 1014 Wellington St. W.
As they settle into their new space, the partners are eager to enhance the menu, which they say will always be a work in progress. The focus right now is on adding real hero-style Italian sandwiches as found in Bronx delis. A community-focused grand opening event with sampling plus food and drink specials is planned for April 11.
“We can’t wait to introduce ourselves to everyone in the area, not just our families, friends and regulars,” says Rod. “Being located in a food-savvy community is a real bonus for us and neighbouring businesses – especially Randy and Terry from Petit Bill’s Bistro – have been so welcoming and supportive. This is arguably one of the best culinary neighbourhoods in the city and we are excited to join in and have the chance to offer good value in a fun environment.”