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Query the Cook #3: Chef Rocco Agostino of Enoteca Sociale and Pizzeria Libretto

As part of our 2011 Dining Guide, we asked a few of the city’s chefs about their work, and what dishes to expect from their kitchens this season. Rocco Agostino is Co-Owner and Executive Chef of Enoteca Sociale and Pizzeria Libretto.

How have you managed to make Enoteca Sociale and Pizzeria Libretto stand out amongst Toronto’s many Italian restaurants?
The Italian philosophy guides everything we do when it comes to our menu. Our food combines bold flavours with the best available products—without compromise.

Why is Neapolitan-style pizza so popular in Toronto?
There are many different styles of pizza. It’s the passion that is put behind the pizza and the ingredients that are laid on top that make the difference. We create pizzas that combine a few simple and flavourful ingredients and that cook quickly in the Neapolitan style, which really maintains their freshness. Torontonians are obsessed with good food and Libretto’s popularity tells us that bringing educated guests quality ingredients is a winning recipe.

Wine is a big part of the experience at Enoteca Sociale. What are some of the gems on your wine list?
Tawse Winery’s 2009 Riesling is so refreshing that I find myself drinking it for most of the meal. Cantine Madonna delle Grazie’s 2007 “Liscone” Aglianico del Vulture is a great autumn wine, a full-bodied red that goes well with a rich braised meat like lamb.

What are the dishes you’re most excited about serving in the coming months?
I really like the fall and winter months because it means that rich, comforting braises will be back on the menu. The Enoteca will have braised oxtail and smooth polenta, whereas Libretto may have a braised rosemary lamb pizza.

Do you have a signature dish to cook at home?
I love pasta in various ways. Our son Sebastian’s favourite—and also mine—is simple tomato sauce with some freshly grated pecorino cheese.

Are there any chefs whom you particularly admire?
Jaime Kennedy (of Gilead Café & Bistro), Chris MacDonald (of Cava), Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, Michael White… I could go on with chefs that I admire. Each has different cooking techniques and styles but it’s their drive and passion for food that is admirable.

What do you do to keep yourself inspired as a chef and restaurateur?
I love cookbooks and food magazines. I’m constantly flipping through a copy La Cucina Italiana.

What is your favourite restaurant in Toronto?
To narrow it down to one favourite is impossible, especially in a city like Toronto, where there are so many great restaurants. I have had so many great food experiences: the pig face tacos from The Black Hoof, the steak tartar from Cowbell, the cornbread from Acadia, just to name a few.

What can diners do to ensure they get the most out of their experience
at your restaurants?

Come on an empty stomach and let us guide you through an experience of Italian philosophy in friendly, vibrant setting.

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