by Malcolm Jolley
Roberto and Lucia Martella opened a small Italian bakery on Yonge Street in 1986 called Grano. Twenty-five years later it’s the centre of Italian culture in Toronto and home to the city’s most sought after speakers series. The couple has lived above the restaurant the whole time and raised four children over the years. While Lucia is in the kitchen, Roberto is the front of the house, welcoming the casual diner with the same enthusiasm he displays for the Italian Ambassador or any number of VIPs and dignitaries he has placed in front of a hot bowl of pasta with a rustic and delicious glass of wine. Billy Munnelly, who hosts Billy’s Best Bottles wine events like ‘Recessions Reds’ at Grano explains Martella’s role:
[Roberto] doesn’t just feed us, he stimulates us. He is the playmaker for our dreams and desires. The most unmacho and best loved Italian in Toronto. The events I’ve held, and attended, at Grano have given me immense pleasure because Roberto creates experiences. He runs the theatre of our imagination. Long may he live.
Rudyard Griffiths who runs the Salon Speakers series with business partner and Co-Founder Patrick Luciani, is as effusive when Martella’s name comes up. He explains why they chose Grano to feed their elite clientele:
Roberto has created a true palazzo of ideas on Yonge Street at Davisville. It is the ideal venue to hear the likes of Niall Ferguson, Gore Vidal and Martin Amis up close and personal.
Indeed, when I showed up to interview Martella, I am greeted right at the door and sat down to a beautifully simple linguine with salmon and leek, and a chilled glass Vermentino that are so good and put me so at ease that I nearly forgot to shoot our interview. Luckily, I recovered and managed to coax out the story of Grano is the video below.
This video was made possible through the kind support of Fortessa Canada / Schott Zwiesel.