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Visitors used to complain about the dearth of quality little neighbourhood restaurants in our city. “You have to go to the busiest parts of town, and when you get there half the rooms are chains.” In recent years that’s changed. From French bistros like Pied-à-Terre and Les Faux Bourgeois, to Italian spots like La Buca and Campagnolo, to harder-to-categorize, cheap-and-cheerful outposts like Habit and Cafeteria, casual neighbourhood rooms are on the rise. That’s why the judges this year chose a Best Informal Restaurant as well as a Best Formal, then voted on which of two should be named Restaurant of the Year. How do you compare a fine-dining room to a little neighbourhood bistro? It’s a bit like the problem Grammy judges have in comparing, say, Diana Krall to Nickelback when voting for Album of the Year. Which better exemplifies its genre? Is Krall a better jazz artist than Nickelback are stadium rockers? Is La Quercia a better casual spot than Blue Water is a formal dining room? Indeed it is, said the judges, and honoured La Quercia, with its fine Northern Italian fare, as Restaurant of the Year.