As a kid I judged a restaurant not by its food but whether or not it had paper placemats. Give me a jar of crayons and I would sit quietly for hours while my parents, I assume, sat back enjoyed their meals.
My kids? Nope. We barely make through ordering and they’ve already whizzed through drawings, games of tic-tac-toe and all the stickers, puzzles, games, etc. that we brought along to keep ’em busy but seated. Now what?
So we’ve found ourselves searching for restaurants that had actual areas for kids to play. Were we ever happy to find Mr. Ciao, an Italian restaurant in Chinatown East.
This cleverly-named eatery is bar up front and tables in the back. And way in the back is a cozy area with a huge chalkboard wall and toys.
Our kids happily went exploring and settled back in at our table when the meals arrived. And they ate. Everything. Often when you go for kid-friendly atmosphere, you tend to lose on food. Not here. The best part may have been the food. The kid menu is more about kid-sized portions – and should you prefer another dish from the regular menu they can kid-size it as well. Our table (kids and parents in TOw devoured rice balls (as the boys called them), fried pizza (so good!) and pasta two-ways.
Getting there: North side of Gerrard St. E just east of Broadview. Paid parking along Gerrard St. ($2.25 per hour on Gerrard St.) and some free residential on surrounding streets. On TTC, accessible on the 504, 505, 506 Carlton streetcars.
Low-down: Open daily at 5pm. Kids cove is in the far back. We arrived at around 6pm and joined a few other families doing the same thing. Other families arrived shortly after. Yes, high chairs.
Eats: Italian basics, plus the first in Toronto to offer “pizza fritta” (fried pizza), a take on the traditional Neapolitan-style street food. Small kids menu, but you can down-size any regular menu item. Gluten-free available. AND…while school’s out this summer, they are currently offering KIDS EAT FREE ON MONDAYS!
Potty time: Bathrooms in the basement. No baby change tables.