September 1, 2014
Jan 29, 2013
02:50 PM

First Look: Porzia, Parkdale’s long-awaited Italian restaurant from chef Basilio Pesce

Porzia: the last new restaurant that Parkdale will see for a while (Images: Karolyne Ellacott)

For years, Basilio Pesce worked at some of the city’s biggest restaurants: Canoe, Bymark, Biff’s Bistro, North 44. Now, the chef has opted to step away from the heavyweights, opening up his first restaurant, Porzia, with his business partner Marco Petrucci. Serving Pesce’s take on Southern Italian cuisine, the 68–seat eatery is in good company, sharing a Parkdale block with Grand Electric and Chantecler.

Taking over a space with a bit of a dubious past, the narrow room has been outfitted with throwback pieces from Paul Cuthbert (Maylor Hardware): vintage globe lights draw the eye to the back of the restaurant; mounted cast-iron antlers dot the walls and a custom host stand has been constructed from parts of an old warship and plane.   

Since opening last week, the menu has already seen three iterations, with a fourth to arrive this Thursday. Keeping things fresh and interesting is part of Pesce’s M.O., and Italian influences abound — though the chef notes that he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed.

So far, diners have been especially fond of both the agnolotti and the octopus (“I thought it was going to be a sleeper,” Pesce says of the latter dish). The fresh agnolotti ($16) is stuffed with chicken livers and topped with yellowfoot mushrooms and dressed with some 15-year-old balsamic vinegar. Meanwhile, the octopus ($20) is served on a bed of semolina and finished with matchsticks of apple, fresh parsley and peanuts.

The breads and pastas are all made in-house, and come summer, keep an eye out for house-made gelato. Last week, the house ’nduja — requiring eight to 10 weeks of aging —was gobbled up rapidly; currently they’re serving Grant van Gameren’s Crown Salumi products while the in-house salumi program gets up and running.

Daily cookies ($3) are featured as a “half-committal” dessert, while those looking for more can dive into the semolina cake ($8), served with a dollop of whipped cream and a round of candied orange. 

Pesce explains: “It’s the nice little touches that really make a difference.”  

Porzia, 1314 Queen St.W., 647-342-5776

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