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Old-School Toronto Italian Sandwich Favourite to Open Soon On St-Denis

This storied purveyor of classic meatball or eggplant parm sandwiches is about to open its only location outside the GTA.

A chicken parm sandwich cut in half with stringy cheese stretched between the two halves. California Sandwiches Montreal/Facebook

After over 50 years in business, Toronto sandwich icon California Sandwiches is set to open in Montreal very soon.

The sandwich shop — which (despite its decidedly west coast name) does classic Italian style options like meatballs or chicken parm — will open in the Latin Quarter, taking over the location of pan-Asian grill restaurant Zyng, on St-Denis just south of Ontario.

The small chain started out in the ‘60s, with a location on Claremont Street in Toronto’s Little Italy — the Bertucci and Papa families (who still own it today) bought a grocery store on the side street. Then called La Rinascente, it grew a following for its sandwich counter, and in particular, a veal cutlet sandwich made with tomato sauce and sweet or hot peppers.

That veal sandwich is still on the menu, and has been joined by meatball and steak sandwiches, and other parm-like options such as eggplant and chicken. While the sandwiches are still somewhere around the size of a toddler’s head, they still hover around the eminently affordable $10 mark, and still draw ultra-positive feedback. The sandwiches keep things simple — all are served on kaiser buns, and most are just meat (breaded and pan-fried in house), peppers, and tomato sauce. The menu is rounded out with a few add-ons such as provolone, or grilled peppers or mushrooms

Over time, California expanded to 14 locations, all of which are in the Toronto area, including suburbs such as Burlington and Ajax. But they’re still all family-run, with California refusing to move to a franchise operation. The Montreal location will be its only location outside the GTA, but will remain under that umbrella — a business listing for it shows a member of the Papa family as its owner. It’s not actually the chain’s first attempt to open in Montreal — in the early 2000s, it had locations on Côte-des-Neiges and Acadie, but these closed at least 15 years ago.

An opening date hasn’t been set for Montreal yet, but the restaurant has been hiring, indicating that it should be very soon.

California Sandwiches

1748 Rue Saint-Denis, Ville-Marie, QC H2X 3K6 (514) 849-1166 Visit Website