First you learn the rules very well. Then you bend them, shape them, manipulate them and never lose your balance, your sense of proportion. You create a style that is your own, that is recognizable in a crowded community. Put three of these like-minded folks together, and you have the magic that is Tom Bielecki‘s Toronto restaurant, Café Bar Pasta.
Free form red plexi glass stenciled by world-renowned New York artist, Jose Ortega, wisps along the walls in abstract interpretation of café, bar and pasta. The white brick interior looks like an artist spent days making a kind of broken brick installation.
“Vodka is the lazy man’s spirit, because it’s just so easy to use”, says bar manager Sean Radzio. He likes more of a challenge to make us something we can’t get anywhere else. “I’ll make you a cocktail, you put your faith in me, and if you don’t like it, then I’ll make you a vodka cocktail”. I order a Mustard Tiger: Dijon mustard, lemon juice, tequila Tromba, and cherry liqueur. It is so well balanced, that while I taste every ingredient, none are overpowering, and all blend into a unique and fun elixir. Wine consultant, John Szabo, always creates a well-crafted wine menu with varieties we don’t see elsewhere. Ontario wines from Prince Edward County to Beamsville and Niagara, as well as wines from Hungary, Greece, Portugal and Georgia, enable a diversity of pairing options, and include six wines on tap.
A cake-y focaccia with shallots, rosemary and chili needs no oil or vinegar, because it is so tasty on its own. Every dish here has multiple flavours and textures. Duck and frisee
salad comes with frozen grapes and a creamy sharp cheese that, all together enable a refreshing and elevated medley of flavours, temperatures and textures. This lends itself to a glass of wine. A very generous elk Osso buco is accompanied by crisp rapini and creamy marrow rissoto with a sprinkling of raisins for sweetness. Succulent fish with sunchoke puree is delicate and enhanced by an essence of horseradish; and the little candy cane beets are so perfectly roasted with their green husks on them. I just eat the whole thing. Simply delicious. Much care is taken with every element on the plate.
There is nothing in the world that satisfies like a bowl of fresh pasta. Drizzled with olive oil and lemon, and accessorized with black olives, capers and roasted garlic, this is a fresh garden of ingredients elevated by panko crumbs that give a delicate crunch for added texture and dimension. Everything is lovingly presented—the dishes are so beautiful—and the pasta is made fresh in-house. In fact, we can order pasta to go. Look at the menu; choose any type of pasta like agnolotti or bucatini; and they will have it freshly made for us to take home. Gluten free is also available upon request.
Menus change. For Chef Jay Scaife the kitchen is his culinary lab of invention. Successive visits have seduced us with gnocchi and crisp pork belly; tableside carbonara; five spiced-duck egg pasta; a meaty branzino and crab cake; and we do not dare leave without a decadent mouthful of flourless chocolate torte with caramel, coconut ganache and chili espresso ice cream!
Cafe Bar Pasta, 1588 Dundas St W, Toronto, 416-534-4794