Celebrity Chef David Rocco Launches Bar Apretivo In Yorkville

Pull up a wine barrel and enjoy good company

There is a new spot to enjoy a taste of Italy in Yorkville, but this time ‘It’s a Bar, not a Restaurant’. That’s the mantra at celebrity chef David Rocco’s newest culinary endeavour, Bar Apretivo which opened this month on Cumberland Street. 

Drawing inspiration from tapas bars found throughout Europe, Rocco has created a space to go and enjoy a drink and a light bite in the company of new and soon-to-be new friends. 

“Yorkville is a great microcosm of Toronto. The audience is well-travelled and cultured and understands this style of dining,” said Rocco, adding the space has quickly become a mainstay where locals pop by for a drink and a chat. “It has been very well received and we are already seeing nearby residents stop by three times a day.”

Rocco is no stranger to sharing his culinary adventures with eager audiences. His numerous television series focusing on food from around the world including Dole Napoli, Dolce Vita, and Amalfi Getaway have taken viewers to new culinary destinations. He has also penned several cookbooks that feature recipes from across Italy. More recently he launched his wine label, David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, a collection of three varieties: Prosecco, Chianti, and Pinot Grigio. Bar Apretivo brings together all of Rocco’s passions under one tasty umbrella. He hopes Bar Apretivo will give diners an opportunity to experience a small slice of his culinary passion. 

The inspiration for Bar Apretivo came when Rocco was walking through the Yorkville neighbourhood on a chilly December evening. He felt the neighbourhood was missing something. Going home to his wife, he says, he told her about his idea and before they knew it they were viewing a space. 

“What I liked about it were the intimacy and the high ceilings,” he said, adding the space reflects the kind of European bars and cafes he has seen through his travels.

He said the venture has been more than just a creation of a new place to enjoy a glass of wine with friends, but an inspiration for him and his wife Nina on a more personal level. 

“We grew closer together. I realized I have a lot to be thankful for. There were some tough months,” he said of trying to open a restaurant during COVID-19. He noted they have taken the project slowly to allow them to establish an atmosphere that truly reflects their vision. “We have tried to establish a certain culture, attitude, and vibe.”

To complement the vast wine and spirits selection, Rocco adds new and unique tapas-style food options which have quickly become a favourite with guests. He recalls one evening where they quickly ran out of a delectable octopus dining option, adding it has been exciting to watch the community embrace the space so quickly. 

“I recall a comment one evening from a patron saying ‘I don’t feel lonely here’. At other restaurants in Toronto you are seated at a table and disconnected from other dinners,” he said, adding he has enjoyed watching all ages sit with each other, share a bottle of wine and become new friends. 

He adds he has also watched the community come together to welcome and support one another as they work to get through the uncertainty of COVID-19. 

He says patrons will often stop by his space before heading on to dine at another restaurant in the neighbourhood or stop by after a meal for a nightcap. “The local shops are supporting each other and that is the type of spirit I was hoping to achieve in the community and with our customers.”