Italian burrata by chef René Rodriguez

René Rodriguez might be best known for winning Top Chef Canada or for his now closed ByWard Market restaurant Navarra that focused on Spanish and Mexican fare.

Rodriguez discusses his love of southern Italian food

Chef René Rodriguez's Italian burrata dish. (René Rodriguez)

René Rodriguez might be best known for winning Top Chef Canada or for his now closed ByWard Market restaurant Navarra that focused on Spanish and Mexican fare. 

But the Ottawa-born chef's love for southern Italian food and the attention he gives to the menu at the new restaurant Orto Trattoria in the Glebe could bring him new acclaim.

"I've always been in love with Italian cuisine, especially from the south of Italy, because it resembles a bit of Spanish and Mexican, using a lot of chilies and zucchinis and onions and tomatoes and basil," Rodriguez said on CBC Radio's All In A Day

"I travelled to Italy a number of times and had many dishes in Campania and in Naples, in Rome." Rodriguez said. He added that he always comes back with an idea, then deconstructs the dish and puts it back together in his own way. 

The important thing is is to keep the true Italian ingredients, he said. 

And the focus of his Italian burrata — a famous cheese made from buffalo milk that's hard mozzarella on the outside and oozy soft cheese on the inside — is the simple, fresh ingredients. 

"It's about the freshness of the cheese and the simplicity. You don't disguise it or hide it," he said. 

Italian burrata with soffritto, basil, tomatoes and miche sourdough


  • 1 ball of Italian burrata, 150 grams.
  • 1/4 cup each of finely diced onion, celery and carrots.
  • 1/2 cup of semi dried cherry tomatoes.
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil. 
  • 4 slices of grilled miche sourdough.
  • Pinch of sea salt. 
  • Dried chilli flakes for garnish. 


  1. Drain the burrata from its water for 10 minutes and set aside. 
  2. In a saute pan, add oil and fry the carrot, onion and celery mix for 2 minutes. Add salt and place everything in the centre of a large plate. 
  3. Place the burrata on top of the fried mixture and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Garnish with basil leaves, sliced grilled bread and a few chilli flakes on top, or add small pickled calabrian chilies as a side garnish. 
  4. Serve with a wine, either a Vermentino from Sardinia or a Fiano de Avalino from Campania.