Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Restaurant Review: Pizza e Pazzi

September 20, 2011

Cari and I have lived in the Dufferin & St. Clair area for 4 1/2 years.  In that time, we have seen some significant changes to the neighbourhood, mostly between Oakwood and Christie.  But when it comes to the stretch between Lansdowne and Dufferin, it’s mostly the same Italian dress shops and vacant lots that were around when we moved in in the first place.

Enter Pizza e Pazzi.  Located in the spot that once housed another Italian restaurant, what struck us right away was that Pizza e Pazzi actually had people in it from the start.  Never more than a few tables, sure, but it gave the impression that people were interested in eating there.  My curiosity was piqued.  A little while later, I noticed that Pizza e Pazzi served apertivo from Mondays through Wednesdays, offering those willing to spend $10 on a beverage the chance to sample some of the restaurant’s offerings.

It wasn’t until Pizza e Pazzi was ranked #4 on Now Toronto’s Best Pizzas in Toronto list that I was convinced that this was a place we needed to try.  Not surprisingly, this high praise from Now Toronto (as well as other local publications) led to a significant uptick in business.  And now that we’ve eaten their pizza a few times, we can honestly say it’s one of the best pizzas we’ve had outside of Italy.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise just how authentic this pizza tastes.  Pizza e Pazzi had their pizza oven flown in from Italy, and is one of the few pizza places in Toronto to have received certification from something called the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana.

With prices ranging from $9.50 to $24.75 a pizza, this is more of a high-end pizza than the place you’ll want to order from weekly.  Well, you’ll want to order from them weekly – but your wallet may disagree.  Our favourites so far have been the margherita verace, diavola (spicy salami), quattro fromaggi (four cheese) and tartufata (the priciest pizza on the menu, loaded up with mushrooms, truffle oil and aged prosciutto).

As great as it is to have a fantastic pizza place in our neighbourhood, it’s even more exciting to see a place around the corner with lineups out the door on a Saturday night.

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Eating & Drinking in Italy: An Evening in San Gimignano

August 18, 2010

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Our villa in Tuscany was located just 20 minutes from San Gimignano, a medieval walled city that is home to many restaurants, shops and a big attraction to tourists.  Thanks to Divina Cucina (and my mom for finding her website), we had already eaten our best meal of the trip in Chianti.  Who knew that later in the same day, she’d have just as good of a recommendation for dinner – one that was slightly off the beaten path and seemingly authentic?

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Eating & Drinking in Italy, Part 1: Il Pozzo in Sorrento

August 14, 2010

Life at No. 71 has returned from two weeks on the road!

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Cari and I have spent the last two weeks enjoying the food and culture of Italy.  We started in the Campania region, near Sorrento, before making our way to Tuscany and an unbelievable villa near San Gimignano.  In a country known for its wine and food, it was a mouthwatering experience that we will talk about forever.  Since this blog usually centres around food, we thought we’d take you through our experiences with food – both at restaurants and back at the villa. To give the highlights their proper due, we’ll devote one post to each great experience.

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Eating in New York

February 18, 2010

Cari and I have been to New York together before.  In 2005, we drove down, stayed in Secaucus, New Jersey, went to see Spamalot and Fiddler on the Roof, ate a lot, and came home.  This time we flew, stayed in midtown Manhattan, went to see Jonathan Richman, A Little Night Music and Maude Night at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, ate a lot, and came home.

Since this blog mostly has to do with eating, we thought we’d share our eating experiences.  There’s hundreds of restaurants in New York City.  These are the ones we found ourselves at.

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California Vacation, Part 2: San Diego

November 27, 2009

After spending 3 wonderful days in Santa Barbara for my brother’s wedding, Adam and I decided to extend our trip a bit and spend some time in San Diego. I’d been to San Diego before, but Adam never had – so we were looking forward to exploring it together.

Off to San Diego..

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California Vacation, Part I: Santa Barbara

November 25, 2009

On November 14, Cari and I had a very special event to attend: her brother Dan’s wedding to the wonderful Liana in Santa Barbara, California.

We decided early on that we wanted to turn this weekend trip to California into a proper vacation and before we knew it we were in the car, headed down to Buffalo.  We have frequently sung the praises of flights out of Buffalo since they are a mere fraction of the cost of those out of Toronto.  We usually make the most of it, driving down the night before our flight for a relaxed dinner and hotel stay to kick-off our vacation.

Our flight was extremely early in the morning, but this had us arriving in Los Angeles before lunchtime so it was well worth it.  An otherwise longish flight was made even easier thanks to in-seat DirectTV, which cost $6 but was well worth it as it gave us the opportunity to watch the delightful Julie & Julia.

Day 1 – Los Angeles to Santa Barbara (more…)

Brunch with friends at The School Bakery & Cafe

June 7, 2009
The School Bakery & Cafe

The School Bakery & Cafe

Brunch is a big deal in Toronto.  But while Cari and I consider ourselves bonafide foodies and avid restaurant patrons, the truth is that our experiences going out for brunch are quite limited.

I first read about The School Bakery & Cafe in Now Magazine, shortly after the restaurant first opened its doors.  The place, located on Fraser Avenue in Liberty Village (near King St. W. and Dufferin), now serves dinner but remains sought after for their brunch.  From the menu we could see why… toblerone-banana belgian waffles, super cheesy french toast, potato-sausage omelet with melted brie… our mouths were watering well before we ordered.

The School's menu was a one page document attached to a clipboard

The School's menu was a one page document attached to a clipboard

It took us all quite a while to narrow down our choices, as everything on the menu sounded incredible.  In the end, I decided on the toasted coconut pancakes, served with a warm caramel sauce and whipped cream.  Cari ordered strawberry shortcake buttermilk pancakes.  Both were plated nicely, with small pancakes stacked tall alongside a shotglass of maple syrup.

Adam's toasted coconut pancakes with caramel sauce and whipped cream

Adam's toasted coconut pancakes with caramel sauce and whipped cream

Cari's strawberry shortcake buttermilk pancakes

Cari's strawberry shortcake buttermilk pancakes

Thankfully both of these dishes were as mouthwatering as they sounded.  The coffee was also very good, and refilled regularly, a good sign for a breakfast/brunch spot.

Ultimately The School lived up to our expectations.  From the innovative menu choices to the decor to the quality of food, everything amounted to a great dining experience.  We’ll definitely be back.

The School Bakery & Cafe is located at 70 Fraser Avenue in Toronto.

A late lunch at Stockyards

June 6, 2009

It’s not every day that an exciting new business moves into our neighbourhood, so when Cari and I first noticed Stockyards on our walks to the Green Barn farmer’s market, we knew this barbecue joint was something we needed to check out soon.

A few days ago, I was flipping through the pages of Now Magazine and stumbled upon this glowing review.  Apparently we really needed to give this place a try!

So today, after spending hours in our backyard garden planting, we decided to reward our efforts with some tasty barbecue at Stockyards.  We were greeted by Tom Davis, the owner/chef I had seen profiled in Now just that week.  He apologized in advance, telling us that because of the success of the previous night’s rib night, many of the menu choices were unavailable.  Hardly fazed, Cari and I were glad to hear that business was going so well.

I placed our order at the front and chatted with Davis about the Now review, the Friday night barbecues (soon to be expanded to other nights as well), and the fact that he roasts and smokes his own meat behind the restaurant.

Then we chatted with the cook as he prepared our lunch: a caprese sandwich for Cari and a hamburger with aged cheddar and smoked bacon for me.

Both were absolutely delicious:

We also both had homemade limeade which was very good.

Just as we were finishing up the last of our meals, we overheard someone asking if they sold their own meat.  Apparently the owner used to sell his meat at St. Lawrence Market.  Go figure.

Definitely a great place to have in the neighbourhood, Stockyards is located at 699 St. Clair West.  Hopefully next time they’ll have the pulled pork and pastrami for me to try.

Summer Walks: West Queen West to Queen West

May 18, 2009
Victoria Day 2009 Walk

Victoria Day 2009 Walk

Not such a lengthy walk today, a little over 5kms total (2.5kms each way), but a productive one. We didn’t have a whole lot of time to devote to walking, but it had been awhile since we’d made it to Queen West – so we drove down and parked just outside the Drake Hotel at Queen West and Beaconsfield and walked down to Spadina and back. A few highlights:

  • We stopped into Urban Barn and picked up an awesome decorative accent piece: A bright orange and very happy Buddha. I’ve always been a bit on the fence about Buddha knick-knacks for decor… but… I can’t look at this guy and not smile. He’s so happy!
  • Look at that smile!

    Look at that smile!

  • We grabbed a bite to eat at The Dog’s Bollocks, primarily because the name is pretty awesome. A really nice solid pub meal with great service – Adam had a burger which he seemed pretty wowed by, and I had a simple grilled cheese. A nice relaxing and yummy break from our walk.
  • That’s… about it. I guess it wasn’t so productive. But it was a pretty awesome couple of hours.

Authentic Mexican in Toronto, Part I: El Palenque Casa Del Mariachi

May 6, 2009

If there’s one thing I realized after I started spending more time in the U.S. with Cari and her family, it’s that authentic Mexican food was lacking in Toronto.   This kind of came as a bit of a shock, considering the number of quality Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Ethiopian, Korean, Italian, Thai, etc, etc, etc. restaurants in this city I call home.

Shortly after moving to the Dufferin & St. Clair area, we realized that there are actually quite a few Mexican restaurants in our area.  Before tonight, we had only tried El Rincon.  The food there was very good, but didn’t leave much of a lasting impression.  We were also curious as to how some of the other restaurants compared.

With its large bright orange sign, El Palenque caught our attention right away.  In fact, the first summer that we lived in our house, Cari picked up a menu from inside and commented on how good the place smelled.  Somehow, it took us more than a year and a half to return.  But we finally did, and our meal there was probably the best Mexican meal we’ve had in Toronto.

First impressions:  It’s an adorable little place with a stage set up for mariachi performances (our waitress told her that her mother sings with the band on weekends).  The menu was equally adorable, constructed out of wood to depict window shutters:

El Palenque's Menu

El Palenque's Menu

We started with the obligatory guacamole, which got us off to a good start.  It was served in a neat stone bowl with freshly baked chips and three types of salsa, each with its own unique flavour.  Very tasty guacamole… a good sign.

Tasty Guacamole

Tasty guacamole

Then came our margaritas.  Although El Palenque offers up strawberry, melon, banana, and even guava flavoured margaritas, we had to go with the original lime, on the rocks.  When we asked our waitress the difference between medium and large sized margaritas, she commented that the difference had to do with the amount of alcohol; not the physical size.   So large it was!  Not only that, but she was gracious enough to bring us the extra amount she had mixed by mistake.  So we actually each ended up with about a margarita and a half each.

Our entrees was extremely satsifying, and ultimately what convinced us that we were experiencing something special.  Cari ordered vegetarian fajitas, which were served with small, fresh tortillas and a whole load of vegetables and other fixings.   I ordered a burrito with delicious chunks of beef, cheese, rice and sauces.  Mmm…

Adam's burrito 
Adam’s burrito

 

 

Cari's fajitas
Cari’s fajitas

We were hoping to try El Palenque’s fried ice cream for dessert, but just before we had ordered our food we overheard someone behind us unsuccessfully trying to do the same (apparently it’s a more common dish in the summer and they were all out).  Oh well, after the copious amounts of food we had already eaten, there’s no way we could have eaten any more.

As of right now, El Palenque is easily the best Mexican we’ve had in Toronto.  The search continues, as always, but for now we are very happy and will definitely return.