Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
HAMILTON, ONTARIO — The name of his new restaurant alone should give you an indication of the pride Vittorio Colacitti feels for his hometown. Born & Raised opened in July, bringing Colacitti’s acclaimed cuisine to Hamilton, a city that has struggled over the years to change its image as a working-class steel town with little in the way of culture.
Colacitti, however, knows the community intimately and is eager to be a champion for it. Similar to what Dale MacKay has done for Saskatoon, Jeremy Charles for St. John’s and a brigade of Alberta chefs for Calgary, Colacitti is aiming to bring notoriety to a part of Canada that is not known for its culinary offerings. As he explains it, Hamilton — which is 60 kilometres (38 miles) from Toronto — is ripe for chef-driven restaurants to emerge.
“There’s a strong food heritage here but it was lost,” says Colacitti, whose family has lived in the Hamilton area since the late 1800s. Born & Raised features pictures of some of his ancestors on the streets of the city from the early 1900s. “I think this community needs good restaurants to come in. I think it deserves it. I’ve always felt an affinity to this area. It’s where I’m from, it’s where my family is from, and it’s been a goal of mine to open a restaurant here, and the time just felt right.”
Colacitti, who was a contestant on the reality-TV show Top Chef Canada, is splitting time between Born & Raised and The Good Son, the excellent restaurant he opened in 2014 in Toronto’s dynamic West Queen West neighbourhood. Both restaurants feature outstanding pizzas and a diverse range of flavours (Jerk Shrimp, Sea Bream Ceviche, and Green Mango Salad). Their ingredients are sourced from quality suppliers in southern Ontario.
Fine Dining Emerges in Hamilton
While The Good Son is among one of many stellar restaurants in its neighbourhood, Born & Raised can immediately stand out among the sparse dining choices in Hamilton.
“You can get missed in Toronto because there’s so much bustle and even on the block where we are with The Good Son, there are many incredible places to eat,” Colacitti says. “Here, If you can do something good you will get noticed. There’s a lot of affluence in Hamilton now, so it’s more relevant to have a good dining scene and a good arts and culture scene as new wealth is coming in because of the attractive housing market.”
With the average house price in Toronto hitting $1.28 million, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board, people are searching for other communities and Hamilton is winning over many Ontarians forced out of the market in Canada’s largest city. Recently, a rush of buyers has caused a 10 per cent year-over-year increase in Hamilton’s home prices, with the average property going for $478,613, according to the Conference Board of Canada. The influx of new energy from Toronto brings creativity and eclecticism.
Hamilton just wrapped up the James Street Supercrawl, a three-day arts festival featuring an array of outstanding musicians, contemporary art displays, and gallery shows. Such cultural experiences attract visitors, makes Hamilton seem fun and tempts people to migrate to it. Many of those who arrive are diners accustomed to the level of quality Colacitti’s enterprises deliver.
“We’re raising the bar and giving people an incentive to come out and dine in Hamilton. The demand is there so for us it’s about meeting demand and exceeding it,” says the chef, who spent time earlier this decade working in Rome, where he polished his skills and his understanding of food sourcing practices. “It’s not about being a good restaurant for Hamilton, it’s about being a good restaurant no matter where it is.”
MORE ABOUT BORN & RAISED
Address: 224 James Street North, Hamilton, ON (see map below)
MORE ABOUT THE GOOD SON
Address: 1096 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON
You Must Order: Charcuterie and Cheese platter ($19)