Dine finely while on Avenue Road

[attach]5858[/attach]As a kid, David Minicucci would often rather make homemade wine with his dad and preserve tomatoes with his mom than spend time with his friends.

“I remember vividly when a lot of my friends would be outside playing I’d want to stay inside and help,” he says. “I remember that my friends thought that was a little funny.”

After going on to work his way up from busboy to manager at many local fine dining establishments, Minicucci and his friend Sam Kalogiros teamed up to open their own Italian eatery in 2007.

Reflecting back on launching L’Unita on Avenue Road near Davenport Road five years ago, Minicucci says they hadn’t anticipated the number of clients they’d get in their first month.

“We were four people running the front of the house six nights a week because we thought we were going to do maybe 20 covers, 25 covers and I think after the first week it was like chaos,” he says. “We didn’t do any advertising at that time. Essentially, other than our friends and people we had served in restaurants, nobody really knew who we were and it just blew up like crazy. After the first week we were doing over 100 covers every night.”

Both L’Unita, which takes its name from an Italian newspaper, and Maléna, an Ionian seafood restaurant they opened down the road in 2010, have frequently changing menus depending on what’s in season, host special events like food pairings based around Sicilian or Greek wine and have corporate and private dining.

“It was about having fun and at that time it was kind of hard to have great food and great wine and great service in a fun place,” he says. “So it was our mandate to put all of that together.”

Maléna, which takes its name from a movie with the same title, will be adding a new courtyard patio in May for its Greek and Southern Italian food offerings.

Along with making his guests happy, Minicucci says he also enjoys working closely with staff members to teach and mentor them.

“I always love it when I can find someone that I know wants to make it in this business and is not in it just for a little bit until they figure out something else they want to do,” he says. “I love teaching.”

He says they were first attracted to the area because it had a neighbourhood feel and wanted to be community driven.

“Even in a big bustling city like Toronto, I think that’s one of the neighbourhoods that’s still kind of quaint,” he says. “We wanted it to be small and quaint. Essentially we wanted it to be a place that we would like to go to or we’d like to hang out too.”

Minicucci says he learns something new every day on the job since no two days are the same and there is always a new wine to taste or a supplier with a different product.

“We’re lucky what we do, we get to make people happy,” he says.” I mean, our job is about eating and drinking what’s so bad about that, right? We get to eat and drink, we get to talk to people, we get to be social.”