In search of authenticity: jackpot! Three brothers from Naples, working at kitchens across Toronto, band together to form a culinary triumvirate. Trattoria Re de Napoli is an homage to their homeland using the best recipes from their home. There is no shortage of Italian restaurants in Toronto, but this one is different. This is like a gem we find traveling abroad for which we message all our friends back home. We are dining in that wonderful island enclave far adrift from Southern Italy: Woodbridge.
Unfolding my napkin from the red and white-checkered tablecloth, I settle into the quaint old-country charm of a neighbourhood Italian restaurant. There is not a word of English spoken in the kitchen, and the patrons all gesture with the congenial air of familiarity normally reserved for a Sunday afternoon reception. Our gregarious server is also our interpreter. She brings us items from both on and off the menu. We feel right at home.
Our antipasti platter is a sight to behold and feast for our eyes. Fresh, whole, in-house smoked mozzarella is braided and enlivened with a toss of prosciutto, mushrooms, tomatoes and warm baked taralli with fennel seeds. I need wine. I feel like I’m on vacation in the Amalfi Coast. That’s what dining should do. We savour a bouillabaisse of clams, mussels and roasted tomatoes with crisp steaming focaccia, and are wowed by the colour, the freshness, and the anticipation of what is to come. Octopus, marinated in garlic and parsley, is presented whole. Cooked to tender perfection, we are happy there are only just the two of us to indulge in such a large portion. This kitchen knows to avoid the rubbery texture from overcooking, and the tartness of an acidic marinade. It’s simply a good quality protein presented with finesse, not fuss. (If you want to impress someone, come here, order this dish, and you’ll look good!) And the food keeps coming. A playful and decadent dish of macaroni is distinguished by smoked mozzarella and potato to enrich the texture. Our main pasta is an agnolotti of lobster topped with fennel and shrimp. Fennel is a digestive, and its sweetness complements that of the shrimp and the lobster. This dish won Chef Maurizio Silvestri a Pomeri Award, and is a staple on the menu.
Chef Silvestri (seen below right with brother, Chef Alessandro Silvestri on left) has been a Master Chef since 2009 and has been awarded two Michelin stars. “I am Italian, 100%.” He tells me. “I don’t mix in my cooking. If you ask me for the real mode of Italian cooking, Sicilian, Neapolitan, Milanese, that’s what I will give you. Perfect real Italian mode—because that’s what I am.”
Rich flavours abound. These are the traditional recipes served to King Ferdinando II, and we’re confident and contented that each dish on the menu, whether pesce del giorno, grilled seafood and meats, or fresh pastas are all prepared with regal care. Indeed, the motto on the wall beneath the restaurant’s name reads: Tutti voi che mangia con me saranno trattati come dei re–All of you who eat with me will be treated like kings.
~Trattoria Re de Napoli, 8787 Weston Road, Unit 14, 289-371-3109~