Destination Dining in London

Dining Room at Dolcetto Risto in London OntarioIf you’re looking for a casual, modern restaurant that serves housemade Italian food in London, Ontario, look no further than Dolcetto Risto. Located in the southwest corner of the ever expanding city limits, this Italian restaurant is quite the distance from the dining-focused downtown core. The location is actually part of an outdoor mall, surrounded by a gym, a grocery store, a bank, and a coffee shop. That is not necessarily a bad thing since parking is more than ample. And in my opinion, every part of this city deserves a unique dining spot and this one, because of its location, is definitely a destination.

In a style I like to call Scando-italian, the large open dining room features polished concrete floors, streamlined wood furniture and accents, and large windows that allow in generous light and open to a patio in the warmer months. The neutral vibe reads calm, but the atmosphere is lively and energetic, especially when you peek into the kitchen which stands in full display to the rest of the dining space.

View of Bar at Dolcetto Risto in London OntarioDining area at Dolcetto Italian Restaurant in London Ontario Regardless of where you are seated, the food remains the draw. The boy and I have made the visit a number of times. Each time we make an effort to try something different but a few items stand out as favourites. The large veal and ricotta meatballs, the calamari salad, and the creatively garnished, thin crust pizzas top the list.

With the weather on the milder side this weekend, we found ourselves in the Byron area and I suggested Dolcetto as a lunch spot (the boy didn’t need much persuading!). Seated by the large windows and basking in the sun streaming in, we placed our order. We started off with complementary fresh focaccia and an olive oil and balsamic dip. The soft, salty bread soaked up the oil beautifully and helped to bide time before our meals arrived.

The attentive server kept our water drinks filled until our food was served. The boy chose a trio of crispy arancini (risotto balls) on a bed of tomato sauce.They arrived hot and crunchy on the outside and hot and cheesy on the inside. I wanted a heartier meal and chose broad pappardelle noodles topped with a short rib ragu in a wine sauce. I was surprised at the amount and, to be honest, I couldn’t finish the entire plate. Of course, it was a great excuse to have it for lunch the next day.

Foccaccia with olive oil and balsamic dip at Dolcetto Risto in London OntarioArancini at Dolcetto Italian Restaurant in London OntarioPapardelle with short rib ragu at Dolcetto Italian Restaurant in London OntarioA forkful of papardelle at Dolcetto Risto in LondonAnd if you haven’t guessed by now I have a bit of a sweet tooth so no dining experience would be complete without dessert. We chose to share a double plate of cannoli. The sweet ricotta cheese filling was speckled with chocolate from a local producer, Habitual Chocolate (I absolutely love it when local businesses support each other – a huge kudos to Dolcetto!). However, unlike the traditional version of a cannoli shell, Dolcetto makes they’re own using a pizzelle press for a lighter and fresher taste. The result is a large crispy exterior which is the perfect foil to the creamy core. A perfect pairing with a cup of strong coffee!

Double cannoli at Dolcetto Risto Italian Restaurant in London OntarioNow I can’t wait until the weather gets warm and once again I indulge in some freshly baked pizza and a glass of wine on the patio. I hope you guys can find your way here and give this Italian restaurant a try!

More than Bread at this Bar

Bread Bar Restaurant in Hamilton OntarioIf you read my previous post you’d know that we spent some time in Hamilton doing a little Christmas shopping. And trust me, nothing works up more of an appetite than that little activity. So when we left Pure Home Couture with our shopping bags filled and tummies rumbling, we headed down the street to the Bread Bar.

This is a tiny Earth to Table restaurant which at the time of our visit was packed to the rafters with locals and visitors alike. We were advised to make reservations for future visits or we could be in for quite a wait….and this one was well worth it. The menu is mostly made up of local, seasonal ingredients and is varied to satisfy all palates. But in my humble opinion, don’t miss the pizza!

Sweet Treats at Bread Bar in Hamilton OntarioSavoury Pastries at the Bread Bar in HamiltonPizzas at the Bar at Bread Bar Hamilton OntarioBread Bar Hamilton MenuThe only thing I’m not happy about is that Hamilton is so far away. I have a feeling Bread Bar could easily have turned into my weekly must do!

Marché Mövenpick – Market Style Dining in Toronto

Food station at Marche Restaurant TorontoA few years ago, I was flying to Toronto from a trip abroad. I was seated next to a business man making his first visit to the city. We spoke about a number of things and food easily slipped in as a topic of conversation. When he asked me about a unique dining experience in downtown Toronto there was only one answer. Marché Restaurant.

Marché is a “front cooking” concept restaurant which originated in Switzerland and boasts a number of franchises around the world. Located on Front Street, in the business district of Toronto, it’s designed like a marketplace with a variety of freshly made food offerings to satisfy any palate. Being surrounded by so much mouthwatering food makes narrowing down your choices very difficult and you must be very careful not to mistake the restaurant for a buffet.

Upon entering, the hostess presents you with a plastic card which is swiped at every station when you request food or drink. The cost of the food is put onto the card and tallied by the cashier at the end of the visit. Speaking from experience, the food can easily add up as you wander around the “market” with a wooden tray, your eyes bigger than your stomache.

Foccacia station at Marche Restaurant Yonge St. TorontoOyster station at Marche Restaurant TorontoCafe bar with barrels at Marche Movenpick TorontoCupcakes and chocolate covered strawberries at Marche Movenpick Restaurant TorontoSitting area in Marche Restaurant Yonge Street in TorontoOnce you’ve selected your food, meander through the restaurant with your loaded tray to the seating areas. These are designed with different themes like “Scandinavian Cabin”, “Paris Cafe”, “Art Deco Lounge” to further add to the dining experience. My favourite is the French Bistro zone which has a very mellow European atmosphere.

I was able to snap some of these photos because I  was at the restaurant for an early morning visit. Most of the diners were business men and guests of the surrounding hotels. However, come lunch and dinner time, it is not unusual to find a line up outside the entrance. No matter time of day, the friendly staff make sure that each visit is smooth and enjoyable.

Interior view of bistro cafe with mirror wall at Marche Restaurant in TorontoLarge french clock in Marche TorontoInterior view of bistro cafe in Marche Movenpick Restaurant | Yonge Street TorontoAnd it wouldn’t be a complete visit to Marché if I didn’t indulge in a large Belgian waffle with strawberries, maple syrup and real whip cream. I will skip any savoury entree just to get my hands on this breakfast come dessert.

Belgian waffle with strawberries and whip at Marche Restaurant in TorontoI hope you give Marché a try on your next visit to Toronto. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

The Chic Toronto Hangout, Italian Style

Terroni Bar Centrale exterior TorontoThough not one to frequent chain restaurants, whenever I can avoid them, the Terroni chain of eateries have become my go to place for great Italian food and a relaxed yet stylish atmosphere. Each of the eight Toronto based restaurants serve traditional southern Italian food but are themed in different ways. You can choose between family styling dining with large sharing plates, traditional restaurant dining or a wine bar atmosphere.

I’ve now visited three of the establishments and Bar Centrale tops my list. Located along the Yonge Street corridor, and often frequented by the chic residents of Rosedale, Bar Centrale is more than a restaurant. It’s a neighbourhood hangout. A place where you take your family for an early breakfast, meet your girlfriends for brunch, or linger over dinner and wine with whoever makes your heart beat a little faster. The staff is young, friendly and attentive. No one rushes you out the door. And in fact the longer you sit, the more you will order….the menu items are simply irresistible.

Interior view of Bar Centrale restraurantGlass water carafe and brunch menu at Bar CentraleCoffee and cream at Terroni Bar CentralePandolci with preserves and nutella - Terroni Bar Centrale Toronto And if you would like my recommendation…don’t miss the pandolci. Tiny Scandinavian style pancakes served hot with a side of jam and nutella.

Terroni restaurant Toronto ON

The Bag Lady

The Bag Lady London Ontario entrance and vanInterior restaurant and counter | The Bag Lady London OntarioCookie pedestals at The Bag Lady in London OntarioVintage object display in The Bag Lady | Restaurant in London OntarioGirl face mugs at The Bag Lady in London OntarioSeating area in The Bag LadyCutlery and napkins in The Bag Lady in London OntarioInterior of restaurant with patrons of The Bag Lady in London OntarioWhite wrought iron tables on the patio at The Bag Lady in LondonExterior building and patio at The Bag Lady Everyone says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I couldn’t agree more. I will wake up an hour early just to start the day off with a hot meal. I must admit that this does take a toll on my sleep (and who couldn’t use a little more shut eye!). Finding a place in my London neighbourhood that takes breakfast as seriously as I do, and is a super cute spot to meet with friends is amazing.

Stepping through the door of The Bag Lady I felt like Alice walking through the looking glass. The pastel technicolor and over-the-top retro design can be bit overwhelming, but the vibe is really easy going. The food feels homemade and will make you a breakfast addict, especially the mixed potato hash. Whether you decide to sit inside or outside, a visit to this delicious wonderland is a must.