With its doors opening this July, Forest Hill’s new hot-spot venue, The Imperial, welcomes all with Old-World style and modern luxury.
By Adriana Ermter
Portrait Photography by Fabian Di Corcia
Portrait Photography at The Hazelton Hotel, Toronto
Renderings by Lux Design


I have an innate passion to bring people together,” says Rino Perruzza, the enthusiastic proprietor, founder and principal of The Imperial in Toronto. “Hospitality, cooking, creating special moments — it’s what I do. It’s why I wanted to bring Th e Imperial to life. My love for this project keeps me going and I cannot wait for guests to walk in off the street and through our doors. It’s going to be spectacular.”

Perruzza’s big, inclusive words match the mammoth 135-year old front doors of his new events-based luxury venue. Located at 129 St. Clair Avenue West, Th e Imperial, opening to guests this summer, invites the area’s chic, vibrant neighbours to come together to celebrate a multitude of festivities.


Built in 1888 as Forest Hill’s original neighourhood parish, Deer Park Presbyterian Church was favoured by locals for decades. Later, after a rebirth as the Deer Park United Church, it almost became, for a moment during the mid-aughts, a projected condominium building. That is, until Perruzza swooped in with visions for a revival.

Now, after two years of extensive renovations, the decommissioned historic site has gloriously transformed into a 6,000-squarefoot upscale hot spot to host weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, art exhibitions, fashion shows, concerts, corporate events and so much more — it’s truly a versatile venue. Respectful of its community-based roots, Perruzza has thoughtfully perpetuated the former church’s legacy, turning it into one of the city’s grandest gathering places, complete with a fresh and modern vibe. “The magic is that it’s now a blank canvas for all of our guests to do anything they want with and to book any type of event they desire,” he says.

Timeless with its historical, Gothic stone exterior, the landmark’s blank-canvas interior is unique. While preserving distinctive architectural features such as a 24-foot vaulted arched ceiling, the original choir balcony and a 17-storey bell tower, the venue simultaneously houses three floors and six open-flow and spacious rooms, inclusive of the expansive entryway foyer. Sunlight can be seen streaming through the building’s large original stained-glass windows above the main entrance and along its east side, filling The Imperial with sparkles of colour and warmth. The overall effect is Old World meets cosmopolitan luxury. “Its stature and grandeur are unequivocal to anything else like it,” says Perruzza. “Even its name took five months to settle on. It had to be something inherent to the community, like the original church was.”


After much debate over its new name, Perruzza landed on The Imperial, inspired by the 1950s Imperial Oil headquarters residing next door. Designed by Alvin Mathers, the HQ is said to have a storied past, including once being earmarked as Toronto’s new City Hall. The building’s municipal future was rejected, however, in an international design competition won by a Finnish architect and later purchased by the oil company. It is currently the Imperial Plaza, a luxe condominium building. “It speaks to the stories about and the affluence of the area,” says Perruzza. “We wanted to add to this presence, to give people a place to share their stories about who’s starting a new business or who’s falling in love. This stems from my upbringing. I come from an Italian family, and we always had huge gatherings at home with people sharing their news and eating together. This is what we are creating with The Imperial today.”


With its permanent restaurant The Bistro, with delectable Italian and French dishes on its lunch, dinner and weekend-brunch menus, guests can soon come together to talk and share a meal, seven days a week. While Perruzza has curated the list of offerings himself, two quality chefs plucked from Montreal will operate the venue’s kitchen. Nestled at the east end of the building, the restaurant is scheduled to open in June, providing diners with the opportunity to eat inside or al fresco in the 4,000-squarefoot courtyard. “The courtyard was my initial and main draw to the building,” Perruzza says. “It’s U-shape allows the 135-year-old cathedral to be the backdrop to every meal and celebration. How beautiful is that for an intimate dinner or a private party? With a west-facing patio, granite pavers and crystal-lit trees, the courtyard was intentionally designed to emulate Italy’s cobblestoned streets. Its charm, whimsy and elegance are equally appealing to both global visitors and to local Torontonians, who will feel as though they, too, have been transported to another city, if not another country.

Threading through this theme of a timeless getaway is The Imperial’s exclusive partnership with the prestigious Hazelton Hotel. Here, overnight guests can relax in a posh suite as part of their venue booking. “It’s all part of our vision,” affirms Perruzza. “I learned this type of hospitality when I was in my twenties working in the restaurants of Rome and Tuscany. It’s important to cater to guests in all ways. We don’t just actualize people’s dreams for their weddings or parties, we truly take care of them from the hotel room, flowers and chauffeurs to our personal concierge. Everyone receives the attention they deserve, and I hope these shared and special moments spill over into their stay and throughout their lives.”