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2012 Dining Guide

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.

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Query the Cook #2: Chef Luke Kennedy of Bannock

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. Luke Kennedy is Chef de Cuisine at Bannock.

Bannock offers regional Canadian cuisine in a casual environment. Why do you think this style of cuisine and dining have become so popular in recent years?
Casual is popular right now because of the economy. The restaurant industry always ebbs and flows with the economy. Also, diners are more educated and the magic show of ultra-fine dining doesn’t play out as well as it used to. Why is Canadian cuisine popular? Because we have a young generation of chefs exploring their own country.

What’s the secret to making good bannock?
There is no one true recipe; there are hundreds to choose from. The key is to find a recipe you are comfortable with—and don’t overmix!

What are the dishes you’re most excited about serving in the coming months?
Braised meats all the way! Working in a comfort food restaurant, I’m going to get to serve some heavy, cold-weather meat dishes.

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Query the Cook #1: Chef Tom Brodi of Toca

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. Tom Brodi is the Executive Chef at Toca, the restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto Hotel.

Can you tell us about some of the challenges of working in the restaurant
of a major hotel?

I would not say challenges but opportunities. It’s about understanding a different side of the business, which has helped me develop as a restaurateur and chef. An independent restaurant and a hotel run differently, and one of the advantages of running a restaurant at a hotel is that there are so many resources accessible to me. The administrative aspects of the business are very process-oriented and planned well in advance at a hotel; this is not typical at an independent restaurant. There are also some things that make life easy, such as being able to call the engineering department when I need my stove calibrated.

Toca continues the trend of serving regional Canadian dishes. Why do you think this style of cuisine has become so popular in recent years?
It’s not that it’s a popular trend so much as it is that knowledge and awareness of our choices is more accessible and the idea of supporting local farmers makes sense in our culture and economy. Why would I want truck a tomato from California when I can get one from less than 100 kilometres away. People purchase local products, and this gives farmers the ability to invest in their business. It makes economic sense, and the product tastes better! What a treat to visit the farm and touch the earth that grows what I will serve my guests for dinner.

Clearly, one of the restaurant’s highlights is its cheese cave. How are its cheeses chosen? Are there any that are particularly unique?
We strive to find exceptional cheeses that have a wonderful story behind them. An example is the “1608”—the year when a herd of dairy cattle was brought from Europe to Quebec to produce a cheese that we serve today. Though we have a lot of local cheeses, we also have international ones that might remind a traveller of what they consider their local cheese from home. I’m now working directly with some local dairies that are producing exciting cheeses that should be ready to serve in the spring.

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