I met up with the ever so lovely Jonathan Nathaniel for lunch this past weekend at Paese at King and John in the heart of Toronto’s Entertainment District. The area is known for offering notoriously mediocre offerings geared towards tourists. Paese has ruffled the streets feathers a bit by opening its doors as an innovative Italian restaurant even local Torontonians would visit (shock and awe). Needless to say it isn’t too often you have a friend in Toronto saying “lets grab brunch in the Theater District.” Paese may have changed that scenerio entirely.
Several months ago I started to hear from friends about Paese. Word was that Moses the bartender makes a mean cocktail and the plates they were producing were of exemplary quality using the finest of ingredients. I was ever so excited to meet my friend for lunch and see what Paese was serving up.
We enjoyed the following:
Ricotta Gnocchi: roasted chicken, squash, mascarpone
Herbed Foacaccia: strawberry jam
Veal and Spinach Ravioli: sage butter
Trio of Sauces with Focaccia: hot pepper, bell pepper, roasted vegetable and artichoke tapanade
Apple crumble with rosemary
Both pasta dishes were exemplary. Unfortunately service hit a few bumps in the road. We ordered tap water with lemon juice and instead were served a 6 dollar bottle of San Pellagrino. The Focaccia offered at the table was stale. The food writer for Vogue Magazine, Jeffrey Steingarten strongly believes that Italian and French restaurants are only as good as their bread. In this case Paese receives a failing mark. I was also a bit shocked when our server informed us that the restaurant did not have any balsamic vinegar (really?) Expect portions to be small but well crafted and top drawer. I would give Paese a green light for round two. I’d like to stop by in the evening and see what sort of drinks Moses has up his sleeves.