Taste this Tuscan wild boar ragu tagliatelle in Toronto's Entertainment District
Tutti Matti is located at 364 Adelaide St. W.
No discussion about how Toronto's food scene has changed in the last decade or so can be complete without talking about the Entertainment District.
Until just a few years ago, that part of the city was clubland — thousands would descend upon Richmond, Adelaide and Peter streets to club hop every weekend. Name a style of music and there was a club for you. It's how I discovered Tutti Matti, a lone restaurant on Adelaide street, that at the time focused on refined takes on Italian cuisine.
The owner and chef of Tutti Matti has certainly been around long enough to see the transformation, as the ear-splitting music has moved out to make way for tens of thousands of condo dwellers, followed by a wide variety of eateries.
"I've always considered my restaurant a neighbourhood restaurant. Even when we opened in 2002 and there was nothing around us," said Alida Solomon. "People loved the food, but would complain about the music. Red Hot Chili Peppers at the time."
Tutti Matti, located on Adelaide Street West, now offers a taste of home-cooked Tuscan cuisine made with simple, seasonal ingredients.
Solomon, already a veteran chef in Toronto, wanted to bring a slice of Tuscan food culture and hospitality to complement the French cooking that was abundant in the city. She would serve diners plates of thick cut tagliatelle, covered with a ragu that she cooked low and slow for hours.
It's impressive that any restaurant survives 17 years in Toronto, Solomon has not only managed to survive waves of change and an onslaught of food trends, her cooking has never tasted better. A few years ago she dialed back the menu to dig deeper into Tuscany.
"I wanted more and more to present this restaurant as an extension of my home. Food that I would serve you at home."
The restaurant is deeply rooted in Tuscan food traditions, using as few ingredients as possible and being inspired by seasonality, in this case Canadian and Italian.
"I use whatever I can get my hands on locally but I also want to respect harvest in Italy" Solomon said, reaching for a bottle of olive oil that had just been sent to her.
When olive harvest is over each year, Solomon receives bottles of freshly pressed oil. It's thick and creamy, coloured with pronounced herbal and peppery characteristics. One lick is enough to send your senses on a roller coaster ride.
The oil is presented in a variety of dishes to accent flavours. I recently had a plate of burrata, topped with charred slices of apple and a generous drizzling of olive oil.
"It's like every other dish on the menu. Four key ingredients but they all sing," Solomon said.
Also try the peposo fiorentino, one of Solomon's best dishes. It is a riff on the classic Tuscan dish where beef is braised overnight in clay pots with a generous amount of black pepper.
Solomon cooks veal cheeks with wine, cinnamon, star anise and peppercorns for hours. By the time the meat arrives at the table, the plate is covered with jus from the pan. The cheeks submit easily to the fork. The flavour is hearty and deeply layered with subtle remnants of the spices and peppercorns. It has become one of my favourite dishes this fall.
If you want a kick, ask for a drizzle of that new harvest olive oil.