Desire for lifestyle change yields cafe

[attach]5017[/attach]When Tina Leckie celebrated her 30th birthday she decided it was time for a change.

“It was just one of those decisions where I woke up one day and I was like, this year I’m going to do something and I did.”

And Leckie didn’t waste time.

By the time her 31st birthday rolled around she had already opened Café Fiorentina on Danforth Avenue between Broadview and Chester subway stations.

The café, which joined the strip in August, features daily French and Italian creations by Leckie and her partner and co-chef Alex Chong. It has a revolving chalkboard menu of pizza, panini, soup, salad, quiche, bread, dessert and more. They also cater functions and offer meals to go.

“I have a couple staples that customers won’t let me take off the menu in terms of sweets,” she says. “The carrot cake is probably one of the ones that customers would never let me take off and the bread pudding, other than that, it’s rotating.”

Leckie says they source as many local ingredients as possible to make everything in-house, including the bread, tomato sauce and their own collection of jams.

“We go to the market, we find whatever vegetables and fruit and anything that we can, and we bring it back and make something new every day,” she says.

Leckie first learned the art of cooking with her parents and grandmother. In high school she had a co-op placement at Dufflet, and followed that internship up with another at Opus while studying hospitality management at Ryerson University.

Before she opened the café she had worked her way up to sous-chef at Celestin. She also has experience working with acclaimed chefs like Pascal Ribeau, Ivan Bailey, Michael Stadtländer and Martial Ribeau.

Leckie first fell in love with the Danforth neighbourhood when she was still in school, working as a local nanny.

“The thing I loved the most was seeing a family going to get their meats from the butcher, going into the vegetable store to get their veggies, I love that,” she says.

“It’s rare to find a community that actually supports the small guys that way.”

Leckie says it took her whole family, including her mom, aunts and uncles, to transform the space into a café. She says she wants patrons to leave Café Fiorentina with an appreciation for good quality food.

Although she worked in fine dining for her entire career, Leckie says she chose to open a café instead of a restaurant because it gave her the freedom to have a flexible menu.

“I just love the idea that I can do things smaller, simply and what I want to do on a daily basis,” she says.