Local cuisine is a perk for any traveler. Whether it was Ceviche in Ecuador, Dolma in Turkey, or Pizza in Italy, pure authenticity made each of my meal experiences that much more enjoyable, and, of course, delicious. When traveling more locally, however, these kinds of dishes are harder to come by.
North of Mexico, most areas have created their own foodie specialties from a medley of European, African, South American, and/or Asian influences. In the United States, it is sometimes done right, like in New England Clam Chowder or Cajun Shrimp Gumbo, and other times, very wrong, as in most Tex-Mex cooking (please excuse my bias, I just know true Mexican food too well). Thankfully, there is also a wealth of global and fusion cuisines across both the U.S. and Canada. I discovered a certain Ontarian gem, for example, on my last visit to Toronto.
Upon entering Paese, my friend and I were treated to two exquisite glasses of wine. Although we did not know it at the time, each bottle had been chosen by their staff sommelier. Before long, we were generously offered a taste of one of their not-yet-on-the-bar-menu appetizers, it was both familiar yet innovative, and then served a spectacular pizza. I can say from experience that it is the lightest, and thus best, I've had outside of the Italian border. And finally, as a thank you to our excellent hosts, my friend and I ordered a chocolate torta and were, once again, blown away by it's delectability. (Read more about my serendipitous experience here.)
Of course, I must also comment on the atmosphere, which is as sophisticated and inviting as the food itself. The main dining room and bar are modernly accented with whites and blacks. These monochromatic colors look especially beautiful against the natural wood tones of the floors and furniture. Another interior aspect is the walls which are made up of gorgeous yet bare exposed brick that is playfully decorated with warm lights.
And finally, perhaps the most pleasant surprise of all, is the Paese staff.
All were so genuinely good-intentioned and talented. During my visit, I was lucky enough to meet both the owner, Tony Loschiavo, and executive chef, Christopher Palik, along with various others, who were eager to share their creative origins, “Inspired by Italy, Made in Canada,” and culinary values: whole, quality ingredients and fresh, sumptuous meals.
What is Toronto's specialty? I probably still could not tell you. What I can tell you, on the other hand, is this: if you are ever in the Toronto-area and looking for that special “kitchen away from home,” Paese is most definitely, it. Enjoy.
333 King Street West