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Italian

Little Anthony’s New Menu

Little Anthony's New Menu

Every neighbourhood in Toronto deserves its very own “casual Italian fare” spot.  Paisano’s at Willowdale and Sheppard, was our go-to in my part of North York and we recently discovered that Marcello’s rises above the St. Clair West crowd to claim a devoted following on Corso Italia. The suits and skirt-suits who work around Queen and University — no one’s allowed to live that close to the centre of the universe, right? — can get their fix for gourmet, straight-ahead Italian at Little Anthony’s Restaurant and Bar.

The downtown osteria held a media dinner to showcase their new menu last month. The jointly-responsible occasions for this event were: the 1-year anniversary of Andreas Antoniou taking charge of the restaurant his family owns (he also runs Estiatorias VOLOS), and hiring Chef Garth Legree (County General) to take over from Aaron Foster.
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Lil’ Baci Taverna Opens

Staff at the uptown Lil' Baci Taverna

This week I joined a group of fellow Toronto food writers for a first taste of the menu at Lil’ Baci Taverna that will open tonight. With this uptown location the owners of Leslieville’s popular Lil’ Baci Restaurant hope to repeat their success creating a neighbourhood Italian joint.

Funghi pizza heavily-laden with mushrooms.

Funghi pizza heavily-laden with mushrooms.

Like the Queen East original this kitchen (led by Chef Larry Santos) will be focused on casual Italian fare. Salads, veg, and full meat dishes sit in the middle of the menu but I’ll bet most diners will be looking to the edges at the charcuterie and small plates to start and seven pasta and eight pizza options to complete their meal. The housemade pasta we tried was quite good and the pizza leans strongly to the very thin, almost cracker-like style. (more…)

Service à l’Italienne

Two centuries ago gourmands and gluttons were heatedly debating the style of service at formal meals.  Should dishes be brought out together (service à la française) or as separate courses (service à la russe)?  Anyone who has been to a wedding reception, diner, or formal restaurant in the last eighty years knows which side won. Sure, we still see the occasional buffet but this kept-warm and replenished system is not the true a la francaise one.

In our Anglo-American culture and my home growing up in particular there .  Meals generally started with a green-heavy salad and were followed by a course which is protein, a starch, and at least two vegetables all on one plate.

Along with other influences my recent experience with Massimo Bruno’s supper club has me considering the Italian idea for larger family meals.  As I perceive it this means a meal proceeds from antipasto to a starch course of pasta or sometimes pizza or risotto, to the protein course of meat or fish, and then a green vegetable secondi. A sweet dessert, or dolce, concludes the meal.

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Homemade Sausages

The pile of sausages starts to build

On the third-most important Sunday of the football calendar (conference championships next weekend and the Super Bowl in three) I made my way to Oakville for a very appropriate cooking collaboration: Sausage Fest 2010.  One of my earliest posts was about grinding beef for hamburgers and I have made homemade sausages before but this time Alex and I were going all out.  Some might even say overboard.  But they’re wrong.

Pork shoulder ready to go under the knife

If you come from a sausage-making tradition and have been participating in multi-generational sausage parties for years you probably don’t need to hear much more from me on the matter–except perhaps that pork shoulder is on sale and can be had for as little as seventy-nine cents a pound in some places–otherwise some research is in order.  Online, the best place to start is a remarkable website called Hunter Angler Gardener Cook created by a gentleman named Hank Shaw.  Don’t be intimidated by the fact that most of the sausages he makes feature deer, bear, and squirrel–the process is the same for grocery store pork.  He wrote this dead-simple guide to making sausages on Simply Recipes, an advanced guide on his own site, and for those who prefer books here is his sausage and charcuterie library.

Every guide to making sausages stresses the need to keep everything involved as cold as possible.  All the equipment should be refrigerated, the meat should be chilled for an hour in the freezer and added fat can even be frozen solid.  As described in Hank Shaw’s excellent guide the goal is to keep the fat as a separate phase that doesn’t melt or smear. (more…)

Best Restaurants of 2009

Scene from the Capocaccia patio in April

From the beginning of this adventure in blogging I have had three areas of focus for my posts: restaurant eating, gardening, and cooking.  My culinary interests are pretty evenly balanced between the three–with the obvious seasonal variation–and I’d be hard-pressed to choose whether I am most at ease sitting at my favourite restaurant, mucking around on a cool September day in the garden, or cooking for friends and family.  To record the highlights of each I’m going to do three end-of-year posts.

Today I  have a rundown of my favourite restaurants as of the end of December 2009.  Not necessarily ones that opened in 2009–because I don’t really care when a restaurant opened–or ones that became my favourite in 2009 but just where my opinion stands as of today.  I would definitely take a subway to visit any of these, would recommend that others take a train or long-ish car ride for the food at a few others (like Starfish, Mistura, Hillebrand, and Buster Rhino’s) and would even go so far as to recommend one (I’m sure everyone can figure out which that is) as the one restaurant worth flying to Toronto for. (more…)