Opened in 1989, Paese Ristorante has been serving Italian-inspired dishes in the quiet neighbourhood of Wilson Heights on Bathurst, just north of Wilson. Coincidentally, it is close to my office, but I had no idea it was there because a) I mostly go straight home after work as oppose to having dinner around the neighbourhood; and b) you don’t quite expect a restaurant to be in vicinity to residential homes, since one can only assume it’ll be people’s homes down that stretch of Bathurst. They had a downtown location on King West, which closed in 2014.
To put it simply, Paese is a hidden gem.
Chef and owner, Tony Loschiavo also owns a catering business, L’eat Catering which is located next door to the restaurant. You can also expect many local, farm-to-table vegetables on your plate as Chef Loschiavo has an urban garden nearby, which grows many of the vegetables used at the restaurant and L’eat Catering.
Jeff and I came here for a weeknight dinner. The restaurant features warm lighting and wood finishes on furnishings. It is bright with daylight, but has the warm atmosphere during the evening. It is great spot for families, celebrations or a date night, but it’s not too intimate where you can’t have a business lunch/dinner here.
There is variety in the menu from salads, pastas, pizzas, meat and fish antipasto and entrées. There are gluten-free options available upon requests.
After we ordered our dishes, we were brought some focaccia bread with a white bean and garlic spread. Really good, but what’s really great with the bread as well is their house-bottled extra virgin olive oil.
If you love wine, Paese has an extensive wine list from all around the world. I had a glass of 2012 Reisling from Charles Baker Picone Vineyard, whereas Jeff isn’t much of a wine drinker, but was happy to find The Botanist gin on the drinks menu, something that he was recently recommended. When the gin came on the table, the tonic water was given separately so you can customize how strong you want your gin and tonic to be.
A closer look at the Branzino Crudo with avocado, kimchi and citrus. This is one of the options for the appetizer special that evening. It was available for Summerlicious and something they are contemplating about adding to the menu. While it’s a bit of fusion and unconventional for an Italian restaurant, we think it works. The kimchi gave it a spicy kick and texture to an otherwise soft texture of the thinly sliced branzino and avocado.
Roasted Scallops ($16) with fennel and tarragon slaw, citrus and blood orange vinaigrette. We know how hard it can be to cook scallops, overcook it and it’ll become tough. This was perfectly cooked – firm and slightly soft to the touch. Refreshing and light, you may think it’s a nice appetizer to have in the Summer, but fennel is at its best during Fall/Winter months.
Grilled Shrimp Linguini ($25) with roasted pepperoncini, garlic and tomato arrabiata sauce. Arrabiata means “angry” in Italian and is traditionally a spicy sauce, but it’s not really spicy as I expect it to be. The shrimp was nicely cooked. Overall, a simple, not-too-heavy pasta dish.
Jeff had the Grilled Steelhead Trout ($28) with vegetables (Brussels sprouts, asparagus and potatoes. The menu listed salsa verde, but it was not with the trout. We didn’t question the change as Jeff prefers having vegetables over salsa verde, but it is something to note if you are expecting it with your trout.
Because we didn’t expect to have vegetables with the fish, we ordered a side of roasted broccoli with toasted almonds and breadcrumbs ($6.50). If it was roasted a little more, I would have liked it a bit more. I love the taste of roasted vegetables.
When it came to dessert, both Jeff and I were contemplating whether we had room for it but we shared the Cioccolato ($11) after hearing the word “Nutella” from a family sitting nearby celebrating a birthday. On the plate is a dark chocolate terrina with white chocolate mousse and Nutella, and hazelnut brittle. It’s decadent and rich, but not too sweet. The hazelnut brittle balances the richness with some crunch. Portion is good enough to share.
Overall, our dinner at Paese Ristorante was very pleasant. We were happy with the dishes we tried and the warm service from our server.
Disclaimer: While the dinner was complimentary, the opinions expressed in this post are my own.
3827 Bathurst St.