Christmas Day

Investigators warn it could be months before they determine cause of Sotto Sotto fire

Laura Pedersen / National Post

Investigators on Sunday picked through the rubble of two popular Italian restaurants destroyed by fire on Christmas Day, but warned it could be days or weeks before the fire marshal is able to come to any firm conclusions about the blaze.

Sotto Sotto, an intimate restaurant well-loved by the celebrity set — especially during the Toronto International Film Festival — was gutted by a three-alarm fire on Thursday. Spuntini Ristorante & Bar, which sits above Sotto Sotto, was also severely damaged.

“From the outside, it doesn’t look as bad. Most of the brick is still up,” said Toronto Fire Captain Mike Strapko. “But the roof collapsed into the interior. The interior has collapsed and the structure has slipped down.”

Heavy equipment is being used to pick away at some of the heavier remnants of the building, which will allow investigators to determine the fire’s cause and, crucially, it’s source.

“It’s going to be a slow process,” he said. “The investigators are still in there now. This is considered to be in the early stages of the investigation.”

Laura Pedersen / National PostToronto Fire Services at the scene of a fire that destroyed Sotto Sotto and Sputini restaurants in Toronto on Friday.

It could be days, even months, before officials determine the cause of the fire.

Sotto Sotto owner Marisa Rocca promised to rebuild the landmark eatery in a Boxing Day statement: “We are heartbroken over the loss of our restaurant that has been a part of the Yorkville neighbourhood, history and culture for more than 22 years,” it wrote.

Sotto Sotto opened to middling reviews in 1993, but soon became a popular spot for celebrities visiting Toronto on the film festival circuit.

Pictures of celebrities enjoying a meal at the eatery first started popping up in the gossip pages only months after it first opened.

It was beloved for its intimate, tucked-away vibe and was known as a good place to stake out expensive cars, which were frequently parked on the street in front of the entrance.

Laura Pedersen / National Post

Laura Pedersen / National PostThe remains Sotto Sotto and Spuntini restaurants on Friday.

The loss of the restaurant has already been bemoaned by TV personality Kevin O’Leary and rapper Drake.

Other famous clientele have included Oprah Winfrey, Johnny Depp, Whoopi Goldberg and Anthony Hopkins.

The 116A Avenue Rd. destination was tucked inside a historic brick building that sat just a few blocks north of some of the city’s major hotels.

‘Santabomb’ storm may be nightmare before Christmas for Ontario

It may have an unfortunate Twitter-dubbed name, but ‘Santabomb’ may totally rain or snow on your Christmas plans if you are travelling in the Greater Toronto Area.

While the forecast isn’t quite as dire as 2013’s (unfortunately-named) “Snowmageddon,” Environment Canada says it looks “pretty messy” for southern Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Geoff Coulson, a warning preparedness meteorologist for Environment Canada, says while there is still a “a fair amount of uncertainty,” they are tracking two systems that are expected to interact and affect the area between Chicago and the East Coast in the days before Christmas.

“For Toronto itself, it looks like a rain event, when this thing starts, late on the 23rd and into Christmas Eve,” he said.

“The concern for Toronto is a change into snow by Christmas Day at this point. By Christmas Day, this complex system is going to move east of us and that means the winds are going to snap around to come more out of the west. And that’s going to bring down some cold air with it.”

Warm conveyor belt associated with #SantaBomb via GFS. If this was the Pacific you’d hear “atmospheric river”.

— Josh Timlin (@joshtimlin) December 19, 2014

Coulson says wind gusts of up to 80 kilometres are forecasted for the holiday season, which could affect travel, both on the road and in the air.

“It’s not just snow falling, it’s snow blowing around, reducing visibility,” he said.

There is still a lot of movement in the weather model for next week and Environment Canada says it should be more clear by late Sunday.

“The best advice I can give out to folks who are planning to travel around the Christmas time frame is to stay in touch with the latest information from Environment Canada as forecasters get a better sense of what the storm track is going to be,” Couldson said.