Pizzeria Libretto

Ontario Prosciutto & Arugula Pizza

If there’s one song that epitomizes my feelings towards Pizzeria Libretto, it’s Tina Turner’s “You’re Simply the Best”. Apologies for conjuring images of big hair, long legs, and red lips. I just had to do it.

Armed with an appetite, my parents and a special occasion to celebrate (my birthday 🙂 ) we headed to their oh-so convenient location on the Danforth, making the commute from the east end a walk in the park.

Having dined at Pizzeria Libretto (Both Ossington and Danforth locations) a few times, I was quite familiar with their menu. But being the total food nerd that I am, I spent the night before researching all the items I wanted to order.

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LPK’s Culinary Groove

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To say food science has come a long way would be an understatement. There have been so many recent advances in the way that food is engineered, that it makes it possible for those with allergies and/or dietary restrictions to indulge in items that would have once been forbidden.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to serve as one of three judges at Cupcake Camp TO. I spent close to 3 hours eating 50+ cupcakes, and inevitably ended up in a sugar coma. At the end of the day, the cupcake that, in my eyes, took the top prize was one that had neither gluten, nor sugar in it. If I hadn’t read the description on the card, I wouldn’t have believed it.

On a recent trip to Leslieville, I stumbled upon LPK’s Culinary Groove, an award winning pastry and chocolate shop that caters sweet treats that are a combination of organic, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, sugar-free and even dairy-free.

I picked up one of their Brownies (No Gluten, No Soy, No Nuts), a Coconut Lime Cupcake (Vegan, No Dairy, No Gluten, No Nuts), and an Orange Caramel Truffle Tart (Vegan, No Dairy, No Nuts).

You’ll just have to ignore all the “No’s” in parentheses, because at no point while I was consuming these desserts did I feel like I was missing anything. The brownie was chewy, chocolaty, and delectable. My favourite, the Coconut Lime Cupcake, was tender and moist, while it’s airy light frosting laced with an edge of lime complemented the richness of the coconut cake.

My mind was baffled when I dug into the tart. How was it possible to create a fork tender crust, and chocolate ganache without the addition of butter? Fools me, but well into these treats I decided it was probably best to stop asking questions and focus on consumption instead.

LPK’s Culinary Groove is located at 718 Queen St E.

The Cupcake Shoppe

If you want to get in my good books, all you’ve got to do is show up with cupcakes. That’s what I’ve decided recently.

I don’t know where this love sprung from. I think it may have started quite some time ago while watching Victoria Gotti scarfing down cupcake upon cupcake on her A&E show (now cancelled) “Growin’ up Gotti”. Or it could have been during day camp when I was 6 years old while frosting a Betty Crocker chocolate cupcake with straight-from-the-can rainbow sprinkle vanilla icing. Those were the days.

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Fusaro’s

I have many friends who have tweeted their love for Fusaro’s Kitchen at 147 Spadina Avenue. At least twice a week, they would entice me with twitpics of gorgeous pastas that would glisten under their blackberries. They were adamant that if I was in the area at any point in time, that I would HAVE to invite them to lunch, as they wanted to share in my first experience at this Italian eatery.

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Miraculously, I happened to be in the area one day, and called up one of those friends, and was rejected when I requested a lunch date. Ouch! Well I couldn’t blame him, he was starving, and decided to satisfy his hunger pangs about an hour and a half prior to my arrival.

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What Up “Dawg”?

Although the above salutation may be inappropriate walking into a business meeting with a client who is about to finance your next project, it isn’t walking into a BBQ pit. Especially when it’s a pit located at 589 King Street West.

If you are a lover of the Food Network, as I am, you have watched Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives hoping that the wonderful Guy Fieri would pick you up in his red Camaro and drive you down south to experience the most fantastic barbeque you have ever tasted. If you’re a Bobby Flay fan, then you most likely caught yourself drooling when he challenged one of his viewers to a Pulled Pork Throwdown.

Lucky as we are to be able to experience such tantalizing programming, it is sometimes tough to find those sort of home-grown restaurants and authentic experiences in our backyard.

My quest for barbeque in Toronto began with my investigation of Phil’s Original BBQ. Canadian Chef David Adjey praised the restaurant for its fantastic smoked meats and its mustardy coleslaw which he advocated as a hit on Food Network Canada show Restaurant Makeover. I had to try it out for myself.

Though it’s been a couple of years since that experience, here are the few things I remember. Although the smoke was wonderful, the pulled pork had a stringy texture and wasn’t as tender as I thought it would be. Space was another issue at their location. There was hardly any, and every diner in the restaurant was within elbow knocking distance of one another. However, if there is one thing I will admit, it’s that their barbeque sauces were killer. This place definitely needs a revisit and a more focussed review the next time around.

Most recently in the news, I kept hearing about a place called Lou Dawg’s that offered an authentic southern barbeque experience for under $10. Who doesn’t love a deal like that! It didn’t take much convincing to decide to make a trip to taste their wares.

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The Gelato Series- Hollywood Gelato

I  am determined to find the best gelato in Toronto. After my trip to Italy in the fall, I  instantly became enamoured with this dense, rich, creamy treat and was consuming it consistently, knowing that it would soon disappear from my daily diet. The best that I found was in Florence. Unlike it’s Roman and Venetian counterparts whose gelato often was laced with artificial flavours and too much sugar, this regional gelato boasted authentic flavours, generous portions, and overall a more consistent product. I still dream of that gelato to this day.

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Although taking up permanent residency in Florence has not completely slipped my mind, I had to search for a suitable alternative in my native Toronto. I drew up a list of all the gelaterias around the city, and started visiting them one by one. As of this blog post I have visited the majority of them, and only have a few more to go.

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Chez Vincent

Strolling down the Rue Des Bouchees in Brussels, Belgium for the second time I am certain that I am not going to be tempted by that well-groomed, eloquent, and charming waiter behind me. He will showcase gorgeous seafood displays, and try to lure invite me into his restaurant, but I will hold strong passing by him and the other waiters I encounter on my way to the infamous Chez Vincent.

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Without faltering I make it to the landmark eatery and do a double take, as the entrance leads you through their kitchen first in order to get to the dining room. Although we did not have reservations, the staff were very polite as they quickly found us a table and seated us promptly. I look around the room and observe that many of the diners were older business men who most typically are good eaters and always enjoy a beer or two, a tell tale sign that the restaurant was a great pick.

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