The worldwide cult food item that is Nutella (pronounced "New-tella"; sadly I assumed for years it was "nut" like hazelnut Nutella)—the sweetened hazelnut spread we all know and love—is manufactured by the Italian company Ferrero (of Ferrero Rocher fame: think those delicious chocolate balls wrapped in gold, in addition to Kinder Surprise and Tic Tac brands). It was initially introduced in the 1940s, though it went through a variety of versions, finally settling on the name Nutella in 1964.
Using a whopping 25 percent of the global hazelnut supply (the company claims to have 50 hazelnuts in every jar), Nutella is part of a nutritious breakfast (*officially retracted as of April 2012 due to a class action suit.) Or at least part of a sweet and chocolatey breakfast. Or lunch. Or snack. Or dinner. A delicious factoid you may not know is that Nutella has a day of the year dedicated to its deep, burnt sienna, high level viscosity; February 5th is World Nutella Day (though data isn’t specific on what proportion of the world actually observes the day in earnest.) And you may have already heard that this scrumptious and iconic foodstuff now has its own dedicated home in Toronto.
Located inside a Sobeys grocery store near the corner of Spadina and Fort York Boulevard (22 Fort York Blvd to be precise, open 7am-9pm), the Nutella Cafe is the first and only one of its kind in Toronto. It initially sounds a bit funny—that there’s an entire store committed to Nutella. It’s like, one thing. I mean sure, there’s a Puma store, and an Adidas store, and a Vans store, and an Arcteryx store, and a North Face store, and a Tiffany store, and a Sony store, but they have a variety of different products and/or product themes. Nutella, is, well, Nutella.
There’s a small Nutella. There’s a medium Nutella. And there’s a large Nutella. That’s kind of it. I guess there’s Nutella to Go. But it’s not like they have Nutella shoes, and Nutella hats, and Nutella coats, and Nutella headbands, and Nutella shoelaces, and Nutella face cream, and Nutella makeup. Maybe they should. But at this point, they don’t. Still, Nutella in three (and a half) sizes is pretty good.
And there is in fact more to behold than only jars of magical nut paste. The Nutella Cafe has a large variety of pastries (bombe, $3.49; aragosta, all-butter croissants and danishes, $3.99) and artisanal breads featuring the famous spread, as well as a both entertaining and functional crepe station. That’s right, Nutella crepes. And if they don’t sound as delicious as they are, you’re not imaging hard enough (Nutella and strawberry, Nutella and strawberry-banana, $5.99; Nutella and mixed berry, $6.99).
The well-lit, blazingly white wraparound counter with three-tiered shelves of Nutella jars is a prominent feature, giving the kiosk-cum-cafe a clean, fresh, and inviting look, along with the pyramids of Giza-like, thricely hot plated crepe station, enticing passersby to stop in, even if just to watch the action (though the aroma alone will get you.) The cafe also boasts affordable espresso based beverages (lattes, cappuccinos, americanos, $2), in addition to drip coffee, tea, and hot chocolate ($1.) There are a few small tables for patrons to linger and enjoy their Nu-tritious confectionaries, but it’s definitely more of a stop-while-you-shop type of setting. Which, again, for a cafe in a Sobeys is a good fit.
Catering primarily to clientele housed in the surrounding high-density swath of condos (the Sobeys itself resides in the base of a condo building), Nutella Cafe is a great spot to go if you need something original for potluck season, a holiday dinner party dessert, a tasty nut-spread-covered conversation piece, or a sweet crepe after (or during, or before, or all three) grocery shopping. As a destination itself however, the Nutella Cafe is a bit of a let down. First, it’s in a Sobeys. No offence, but anything in a Sobeys, no matter how sweet and covered in nutty chocolate, is still in a Sobeys. When I first heard of the cafe, I envisioned Parisian nights, strolling Les Champs Elysees, and watching mimes do the box thing while eating warm crepes. But not so. It’s more like "clean up in aisle five" while looking for pizza pockets and bagel bites. Just slightly more down to earth than my accordion-filled, fresh baguette, gay Paris version.
But all in all, it’s a pretty fun little spot for an outing. As said, while primarily serving condo-city clientele and likely more than a few harbourfront residents, the Cafe has enough clout with its rep and recent opening buzz to be an attractive destination for those living further afield. In a word (or two), go there. It’s worth the trip down. Worst case you get a coffee and some tater tots over in the Sobeys frozen food section. Best case, you get a Nutella crepe, bag full of pastries, nose full of life changing aroma, and a veritable Russian doll of small, medium, and large sized jars of glorious Nutella.
Meet the photographer: BEA LABIKOVA
Bea is a Toronto based musician, photographer, teacher and a multidisciplinary visual artist. Growing up surrounded by her father's antique camera collection, Bea was naturally inclined towards photography since an early age. She loves taking portraits of unique faces and always tries to capture the colours of the world around us. Her main areas of interest are documentary, performance and travel photography.