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The guy has a Toronto restaurant pedigree a mile long. He is Marcello Barone, owner of Bar One, which recently celebrated its first birthday. Just shy of 20 years ago, Marcello's uncle, Eugene Barone, and his dad, Aldo, were running Milk, Nuts & Things, the funky variety store on College Street near Clinton. They cranked things up a notch, started selling good coffee beans, fresh basil, boutique ice cream. It was no small potatoes that a variety store in Little Italy should go gourmet in those days, when grandmas in black and their men lounging at the espresso bars still owned the College Street strip. The next time we caught sight of Eugene Barone, he had opened the ultratrendy Bar Italia, one of the College Street strip's flagships.

Eugene's ex-wife, Nancy Barone (Marcello's aunt), opened Ellipsis (also on College Street); this charming place was the coolest brunch spot downtown. Marcello had been the bartender at Ellipsis (and he also produced the brunches) before he opened Bar One on Queen Street way West, in the land of the hugely hip and the terribly trendy. Ellipsis closed last month when the landlord sold the building. Many mourn its passing, and rightly so. But weep not, oh ye partisans of the mellow Sunday brunch: Nancy Barone has rented space at King and Sherbourne and plans to open a restaurant there by Christmas (in addition to her extremely charming new Kleinburg outpost, called Ellipsis in Klein).

Bar One is another clean, pale minimalist space. Blond wood tables and chairs, and a really long marble bar are neither softened nor adorned, unless you call chandelier bulbs sticking out at odd angles from brushed aluminum boxes a garnish. The scene here is about as cool as you can get.

Food isn't the No. 1 thing for artsy types. It has to be cool (like them), which translates as up-to-date, inexpensive and largely eschewing meat. Bar One (the name is a play on Barone's name) does all of that, with a slightly heavy hand. Skinny dry little mussels are neither aided nor abetted by the macho spice of chorizo sausage with red peppers, onions and Belgian endive, (a mistaken piece of iconoclasm) whose bitterness does nothing for the already not-sweet mussels. Calamari salad is better: nicely grilled calamari with spicy tomato salsa. Bagna cauda salad (another newish idea) is deep-fried breaded mushrooms atop spinach with parmiggiano in an anchovy- and porcini-scented dressing. It is the kind of salad-as-meal that Andrew Milne-Allan gave to Toronto at Bar Italia; this one isn't as good as his were.

Skip the crostini, respectable grilled Italian bread with walnuts, pear quarters and mystery cheese so unassertive that I cannot identify it. The best meal deal here is to start with soup of the day for $5 (one day a spicy lentil, another day fine-flavoured purée of squash with beet purée and sour cream for excitement). My two favourite mains are thin-crusted pizza ($8 to $12, depending on topping) and perfectly grilled sea bass ($22) served with nicely roasted tiny new potatoes, sweet intense oven-roasted plum tomato slices, grilled fennel and very entertaining deep-fried green onions, in a delicate enough lemon sauce.

Among desserts, we are not amused by stodgy lemon poppyseed tart, but sweet-potato pie with nuts on top is quite charming, like other old hippie foods that knew when to grow up and take off the hair shirt.

Bar One. 924 Queen St. W., Toronto. 416-535-1655. Accessible to people in wheelchairs. $55 for dinner for two including wine, tax and tip. Cheap Thrills: At Oja Noodle House, $10 buys a substantial dinner. Oja has Korean owners, a Chinese chef and a menu that globetrots from Japan to Korea to Thailand. Many menu items are no more than cheap fuel (ultra-bland Singapore noodles, merely pleasant chicken curry, horribly overcooked chicken satay, too-plain Korean grilled chicken).

But three things shine: The ridiculous price of $4.45 (plus less than $3 for toppings of your choice) buys a meal in a bowl of udon or soba (wheat or buckwheat) noodles in wonderfully flavourful seaweed and turnip broth with crunchy fresh bean sprouts and green onions. The spring rolls are crisp and ungreasy, and Korean bulgogi is succulent shreds of beef marinated in intense sweetened soy.

Oja Noodle House. 689 Yonge St. 416-944-8371. Accessible to people in wheelchairs. $35 for dinner for two including wine, tax and tip. Et cetera: Chanterelle, the extremely ambitious restaurant on Bayview has closed because of lack of business. In its place, Chanterelle's owners have opened Hollywood Gelato.

Windsor Arms chef Jean-Pierre has left to recharge his batteries, and been replaced by David Adjey. One hopes Chef Adjey can do something to revive the glitzy hotel's sagging fortunes.

Ned Bell is back in Toronto after a short stint at Beamsville's Peninsula Ridge Winery.