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Empire sat down with Eden Trattoria owner, Mark Mastrangelo to chat about why he moved his restaurant from Toronto to his now Etobicoke waterfront location 8 years ago. As a longtime resident of the Humber Bay Shores community as well as a business owner, there was no one better to talk to about how the area has changed over time, and what the future holds for this neighbourhood.
You moved from St. Clair and Lansdowne to Marine Parade Drive in 2008. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS NEIGHBOURHOOD?
There were a number of factors at play that made the timing and location a smart move for Eden. We first opened our doors on St. Clair in 1997. Business was great but soon the St. Clair Streetcar construction began and from 2003-2007 St. Clair was a mess, and Eden along with many businesses was taking a hit. In 2004 I bought a condo in one of the first developments along Marine Parade Road and I literally watched the entire building Eden is in today being built from my balcony.
At that time, I didn’t own the location my restaurant was in, and as we grew I needed a bigger space. I also knew first hand as a resident of Etobicoke that there was nothing around here to service residents, never mind the thousands of people about to move in. There were no restaurants to go to and getting anything other than pizza delivered was nearly impossible. When the retail units went up, I told my mother, who’s a real estate agent to look into them right away.
Did you find that a lot of your clientele followed you to your new location?
Yes – we’d see a lot of the same faces coming in, telling us they missed us back uptown. But in the winter especially, Eden turned into a hotspot for locals. We were catering largely to those in walking distance from us.
Tell us a bit about how you got into this business?
My family has been in the restaurant industry for a long time. My grandfather opened Café Diplomatico on College Street in the 60s, and I opened Eden in ‘97. When I decided to make the move down here my dad and my uncles thought I was crazy. They thought I was going to starve, no one really understood the area. My mom, as a real estate agent, saw the potential though, like me. My family was pretty split on it; but I knew this was the place and I decided to dive in head first.
What made you so sure?
Living down here made a big difference, I knew the community before I invested in it. As a resident I experienced the frustration with the lack of food options here as well as seeing all the developments starting; I could see this neighbourhood had a future. Although the motels along the lakeshore were still up when I moved here, as one building after another started going up, you could see it – this was going to be the place to live soon. People sometimes say to me, what a great location, you’re so lucky you got this place, but really, I just understood what the community needed because I lived here.
Does your clientele reflect the area now?
Only in the sense that it’s all across the board, just like the areas diversity. We really don’t cater to one specific person. The menu is huge and we have something for everyone, with simple and delicious Italian food at our core. You’ll see some older residents here for lunch or brunch, businessmen during the weekdays at dinner and young people on the weekends. Toronto’s beautiful lakeshore also attracts people from all over, and that’s really reflected in our customers.
What excites you most for Etobicoke, as a resident and a business owner?
After the building Eden’s located in went up, development came to a halt for a bit. But now in the last three years, it’s exploded. Sometimes when I’m driving down Marine Parade, it takes me a second to be sure which one is mine. That’s really exciting; it’s great to see the community continue to grow and all the new faces that come with that. Many buildings reached occupancy this summer and the crowds at night were incredible, so many new and different people.
I’m also excited for more restaurants and businesses. The first seven years, it was challenging, being the only one down there. I was trying to do everything; be a bar on game night, offer delivery, breakfast, dinner, dessert and coffee and brunch on Sundays. Trying to service an entire community by myself was really hard. Other businesses opening up really helped not only me but the community.
So new restaurants, like the Firkin just next door didn’t have a negative impact on your business?
Completely the opposite. I was really pleased when the Firkin opened up. Eden isn’t a sports bar, but for years I was trying to provide that atmosphere for people if they wanted it, while maintaining a restaurant ambiance. New businesses mean people can choose what kind of night they want to have, and it really alleviated the pressure I was feeling to be everything to everyone. There is so much more room for businesses and restaurants in this area, and I really welcome any new additions. We’re all working together to make it a more livable community.
What would a new customer to your restaurant absolutely have to try?
We have great pizzas and pastas, that’s really our bread and butter. We have a daily fresh fish special that’s always worth a try. But, with Eden, there’s something for everyone. We try to create an elegant dining experience, but we provide a range of food, from a simple and affordable weekday meal to a fancy date night dinner. Our wine list is also pretty special, we have a unique selection that you can’t find just anywhere.
Eden is a longtime favourite of the Eau Du Soleil team, being just a 3-minute scenic walk along the water from our Presentation Centre and soon the Eau Du Soleil building. After our talk with Mark, we stuck around for their delicious Thursday special; Oysters. Pop by and take advantage of their Oktoberfest options until October 31st, or try some of the classic build-your-own pizzas Mark mentioned; our favorite is arugula, prosciutto and bocconcini.