Sunday, November 21, 2010


I don't think I could have possibly been more lucky then I was Saturday night! With a late decision to go out for dinner - I was only really in the mood for two places - Buca or Local Kitchen & Wine Bar. I just didn't want to go out unless I was trying something new for the blog - and Buca and Local Kitchen are the top two places on my list. Buca, obviously was reserved up on a Saturday night, and I know that Local Kitchen doesn't take reservations so I figured I would call and just see what wait times are around 8:30-9. When I called, I was told wait times were usually about an hour, and then just out of my own curiosity I inquired about the "chef's table" as I had seen it on their website. The chef's table is a table at a bar in the back of the restaurant at the chef's cooking station. You talk with the chef, telling your likes and dislikes and then for the rest of the night you are treated to their culinary magic. When the lady told me that the 9 o'clock reservation (the only reservation they take is for the chefs table) had just cancelled I thought I had died and gone to heaven! What were the chances - I said yes right away and endured a long four hours of excitement until dinner at Local Kitchen!

Local Kitchen is a Parkdale hit - recently named one of En Route's Canada's Best New Restaurants of 2010, and Toronto Life's 2010 Best New Restaurants, this place is just pure genius! Run by Michael Sangregorio and Fabio Bondi they have create Local Kitchen's vibe to recreate the comfortable, inviting, family atmosphere of an Italian wine bar. Layered with a love for food, a respect for food&localism and a passion for the community, Sangregorio and Bondi have succeeded in creating a go-to destination for the Parkdale (and now Toronto) community.

Arriving in Parkdale, we pulled up to a dimly lit cozy looking spot with a glowing chandelier in the front window - very inviting! We were lead to our "table" two comfy bar seats at the chef's working station at the end of the restaurant (but you are still apart of the restaurant - not sitting in the kitchen!). We were asked if we had any special dietary needs, and if we ate everything. When we said yes we were told that we had no ordering to do and that we would be presented with a tasting of the restaurants wonderful dishes.

Now, to the food. We started our night off with an Ontario Burrata cheese (much like a bufala di mozzarella but creamy, rich and luxurious with a ricotta filling) accompanied with a basil pesto, a sun dried tomato pesto and some buttery toasted bread. From there we were served a little mini one biter of a in-house cured sardine on top of little crostini with arugula. I have never thought I was a sardine fan - but after one bite, I was convinced. Beautiful cured with lemon, olive oil, sat - this little morsel of fish was a real treat. We then watched them make Steak Tartare - one of my ultimate favourite dishes. Seasoned perfectly with delicious pieces of crispy pig cheeks (also made in house) and a quail egg on top! Can you say perfect? After our lovely appetizer dishes we had a bit of a breather pre-pasta course - and good thing we did, because these were hands down two of the most delicious pastas I have ever had - so simple and different, they were the star of the show by far!

The first pasta we were served was something unlike any other ravioli type pasta I have had. As Joanne Kates said, "these are pasta dishes that will reinvigorte a love afair with noodles." Beet & Ricotta Francobolli with mint and toasted breadcrumbs in a butter sauce. Pure heaven it was! Each aspect of the dish created the perfect combination for a pasta dish - the beet and ricotta filling was so delicate yet the flavours still shone through, you got the refreshing bite of mint and a little texture from the breadcrumbs with a smooth butter sauce. Genius! The second pasta we indulged in was a Smoked Potato Gnocchi with Telleggio cheese and Rapini. How I adore rapini, and what a perfect accompaniment to a simply done pasta with cheese. Lovely!

From here - more I know, can you even believe it? We indulged in both of the mains that Local Kitchen has to offer - a Wild Ontario Lakefish with a Zuppetta di Pepe, Olive and Capers (a sort of spicy pepper stew) and Rowe Farms Steak with Roasted Squash & Apple. I am not generally a fish lover, but the lightness of the fish mixed with the richness of the extremely flavourful stewed peppers made for a perfect combination. The steak was perfectly cooked and the roasted squash and apples played on the wonderful comfort food theme of winter. By this point I was almost full but I knew I had to save room for dessert - and I am so glad I did. The dolci (dessert in Italian) changes daily - but we indulged in two delicious pieces of blue Quebec cheeses with honey, maple syrup and toasted walnuts along with two different biscotti, the start of the two being chocolate with a nutella filling. We had three people who worked there tell us how much they loved this dessert and how popular it was - how could anything with nutella not be?!

And that is when our culinary tour through perfect Italian foods ended. I hope I have succeeded in making you drool for delicious Italian food and convinced you that Local Kitchen MUST be at the top of your list! Local Kitchen, is simple yet decadent. The insanley cool Italian inspired decor with rustic wood ovals as serving plates just heightens your experience. The food is locally grown, Italian inspired and presented like piattini (small plates) perfect for sharing. Their focus is salumi (Italian charcuterie) that is cured in house and sourced from Stratford, Ontario. My favourite part about Local Kitchen is their dedication and their desire to "maintain a fundamental respect for their food, where it comes from, and the people who help cultivate it." (Local Kitchen) You can feel the love, passion and enthusiasm in Local Kitchen and as an insane foodie myself, I adore being lucky enough to eat in an establishment like Local Kitchen. Congratulations for your huge success and I hope to be back soon. Torontonians - get your bums out to Parkdale asap!!

Local Kitchen & Wine Bar
1710 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario
416 534-6700

photo credit: & my own & toronto life & en route

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