I have a tendency to romanticize a lot of things which is probably why our Instagram page is quite popular. A cupcake is not just a cupcake on Instagram. You throw in a warm filter and bam! That cupcake now not only looks delicious but invokes beautiful memories of you and your Momma baking last minute cupcakes for the school bake sale.
Romance is passion and passion is exactly what made me love Stelvio. No, I’m not talking about the mountain pass in Northern Italy – I’m talking about Toronto’s new Italian eatery. When we think of Italy, we immediately go to Rome with its golden sunshine, gelatos, and pizza! So when a friend and I decided to visit Stelvio on Queen West, I thought I’d be getting my usual rich carb overload. But my darling readers this is not at all your usual pizza et pasta! Our evening there was so much more!
I make a point to only publish reviews of restaurants we’re crazy about so excuse my flowery language as I try to persuade you to try it for yourself. Having just read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain – my new appreciation for good food took over that rainy Sunday night. As Oncle Tony would say – Food is Love.
We sat down close to the window – Stelvio has a patio but alas the Canadian weather decided to bring us rain on the last day of May. We decided on an early dinner at 6:30 so the restaurant was pretty quiet when we arrived. The interior was simple. No no – it was Chic. White washed walls painted with the restaurant’s name and what reminded me of an alpine goat. My passing thought that the minimalistic interior was probably meant to draw attention to their food was waved over with chatter about summer cottages and boyfriends.
Our waitress cheerily greeted us and reminded us that we actually haven’t even look at the menu. I rested my cheek on my hand as I skimmed over the menu and glanced outside. The rain was pouring on Stelvio’s pretty patio. It was an accurate depiction of what this cold weather was doing to my summertime plans.
” We should get drunk tonight!” I announced out loud. My friend threw his head back and laughed. “Sure but why?”
“Because we’re young and we’re about to eat beautiful food, and life is wonderful.” Which is what I should have said but instead what came out was, “Because it’s Sunday”. I am absolutely useless at picking wine. I tend to go with the bottle with the prettiest name – in this case Ripasso del la Valpolicella won. Valpolicella means “Valley of Many Cellars”. We asked for a bottle.
Our waitress brought over a plate of Bresaola with Bitto cheese and honey. Bitto cheese is an Italian cheese made in the Valtellina Valley in Lombardy. Bitto is only made during the summer when the pretty cows graze up in high alpine meadows. I drizzled some local honey on the Bitto and went to heaven. I remembered Oncle Tony’s words again, “Food has Power”. Power to excite, delight, impress, etc. It’s funny to me now thinking that one cube of Italian cheese can invoke such satisfaction and pleasure. These are the days, I love being young and mildly intoxicated.
The vinno rosso was pleasant and strong so we decided to order some primi to balance it out. We were told that the Poricini mushrooms were harvested from the wild (I pictured men in the mountain forests hunting for mushrooms) which makes them all the more flavorful. My friends didn’t hesitate on ordering the Tagliatelle with mushrooms and I just had to try the Pizzoccheri di Teglio. The Taglietelle was perfect and the mushrooms flavorful as promised and the Pizzoccheri enveloped me in comfort. The weather could not have been more perfect for this type of food. Pizzoccheri is basically what your Alpine lover would make you for dinner on a cold winter night in his cozy log cabin – which he obviously made himself. Potatoes, cabbage, melted Bitto cheese, and buckwheat pasta is a dish you MUST try!
While we were polishing off our primi, we noticed the playful place mats that featured a whale floating on a hot air balloon with the quote, “A long time ago, Serene la ballena left the sea and flew to Valtellina.” And as a sucker for beautiful details, I realized that the same drawing is featured on their website along with a few more characters – Betta la Civetta (a curious looking owl with a taste for Sciatts), Dante Gallo Ruspante ( a rooster addicted to pizzoccherri – like me), and my favorite – Simone Il Procione (a raccoon with a penchant for wine). Well done Stelvio, you have captured both our stomach and whimsy!
As we finish the last drops of our vinno rosso, I glanced out in the pouring rain and I realized that I don’t mind this chilled last night of May at all. In fact it was perfect – no Instagram filters necessary.
Visit Stelvio at 354 Queen St. West!