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Pizza Libretto on Ossington Avenue. (Charla Jones/Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail)
Pizza Libretto on Ossington Avenue. (Charla Jones/Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail)

Toronto moves to slow Ossington expansion Add to ...

Max Rimaldi deals with his share of incensed neighbourhood residents.

They face a two-hour wait to get a weekend table at his Pizzeria Libretto, whose Neapolitan pizzas pass muster with Napoli's no-nonsense pizza-authentication authorities.

Mr. Rimaldi would like to make his classic Margheritas more accessible - ideally by as much as doubling the size of his eatery, which now seats 60.

But new restrictions to restaurant development on white-hot Ossington Avenue would make his desired renovations far more difficult.

If resolutions passed at a community council meeting Tuesday go ahead when city council meets at the end of the month, second-floor restaurants are a no-go on the street. Same for rear patios; side patios more than half the size of the restaurant; large, open doors and windows; and any restaurant larger than 175 square metres.

The restrictions come six months after council slapped a temporary moratorium on all restaurant developments on Ossington, fearing the street was being built up too quickly for comfort. The new rules are supposed to set a balance between residential and commercial occupants. But restaurateurs argue the regulations will unfairly punish the very business owners responsible for the neighbourhood's revitalization.

"This is supposed to be a neighbourhood restaurant, and the last thing I wanted to do is deter neighbours from coming here because they would have to wait for a table," Mr. Rimaldi said.

Ossington has been the site of a remarkable, organic urban renaissance: Restaurants, bars, clubs and cafés are replacing pool halls and establishments of questionable repute along a street that only a year ago was notorious for drugs and other iniquities. But along with the boom in restaurant businesses has come more noisy, late-night merrymaking. And city councillors fear continued uncontrolled growth could turn the street into an epicentre of rowdy, resident-disturbing nightlife.

Councillor and deputy mayor Joe Pantalone, in whose Trinity-Spadina ward the southern strip of Ossington falls, argues the changes put a much-needed brake on rapid development and accompanying disturbances.

Mr. Pantalone said he's happy to negotiate the size restrictions with business owners before council meets Nov. 30.

But restaurateur Nicolette Potter said size isn't the issue. Depriving businesses of growth options in the form of patios, windows and second floors is needlessly restrictive and addresses a non-existent problem, she said.

Many business owners and landlords fear the changes will discourage entrepreneurs from doing business in the area and halt what they argue has been overwhelmingly positive growth.

Mr. Rimaldi loves the neighbourhood, and until very recently lived just down the street from his restaurant. But if this continues and he feels he could run a more successful business elsewhere, he'll have no choice but to take off for greener, more development-friendly pastures.

"They have to be careful who they're pointing their finger at because the more difficult it becomes for me to operate my business, the more I kind of think, is it worth it to be on Ossington?"

It's not conscientious restaurateurs that are the problem, Mr. Pantalone says. It's establishments classified as restaurants but run as booze-heavy clubs, whose noisy patrons empty out onto the street at 2 a.m.

City inspectors are trying to crack down on ersatz eateries, he says, but it's impossible because the line between a bar, and a restaurant that plays live music, serves alcohol and enjoys a night-owl clientele, is increasingly blurry.

In the meantime, Mr. Rimaldi says, the slew of eagle-eyed city inspectors visiting his pizzeria in the past couple of weeks makes him wonder even more if it's really worth all the trouble of doing business here.

Councillor Adam Vaughan said in council that he faces the same problem with noisy establishments - and angry, sleep-deprived residents - in his neighbouring ward. He said it makes far more sense to set rules preventing bad behaviour early, rather than trying to crack down on problematic venues individually once they start causing trouble.

Mr. Rimaldi's landlord, Domenic Fantilli, is furious with council and Mr. Pantalone, whom he considers a close friend. The owner of six properties along Ossington had hoped to retire and rent his properties to restaurants.

"It's disgusting. This is the best [the street]has been since I've been here for 44 years. Now they want to tear it down."

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