Thursday, February 12, 2015

Café Bar Pasta: A Little Portugal Trattoria Gem

Nestled along Dundas West in the heart of Little Portugal is a place where pasta reigns supreme, which shouldn't be a surprise with a name like Café Bar Pasta, however take a closer look at the menu or have a chat with executive chef Jay Scaife, and you’ll quickly note the influences of French and Japanese cuisine, as well as some playful modern touches to house-made classics. At the helm of Café Bar Pasta are husband-and-wife team Tom Bielecki and Christine Vieira along with chef Scaife and pastry chef Kristopher Lavoie. They love good food, which is how CBP began. Classically French trained Scaife takes an inventive approach to his fare with signature dishes like 'Green Eggs'n Ham' Carbonara, sensational Braised Beef Angnolotti, BBQ Octopus, Lamb Shank Lasagna and Snow Crab Lollipops. Each day Chef Scaife spins a selection of homemade pasta from his state-of-the-art pasta machine — an Italia Mini — from which he creates all the pasta dishes, and which CBP sells on line through 'Dough-2-Go,' which means you can take their fresh pasta home and get creative with it in your own kitchen.

Café Bar Pasta sells their housemade pasta on line through 'Dough-2-Go,' 
which means you can get creative with it in your own kitchen

In the lead up to opening Café Bar Pasta two years ago, Vieira who is an interior designer, transformed her father’s former office into a classic modern space decorated with artwork, including a red acrylic wall installation by Toronto-based artist Jose Ortega, and spectacular hanging Globe Chandelier by Achille Castiglioni from MOMA in NYC. Head downstairs, and you’ll find yourself peering into the wine cellar in the private dining room, immersed in a collage of images by Toronto fashion photographer George Pimentel, whose studio is just down the street. With a selection of local, premium estate wines, available on tap and hand picked by master sommelier John Szabo, the space transitions from restaurant to bar after dinner, and often holds special events on the weekends. At first glance, Café Bar Pasta may seem like any other pasta bar, but the result — from first bite to last sip — is anything but, and well worth the trip.

The modern white painted exposed brick interior of Café Bar Pasta with red acrylic art piece by 
Toronto-based artist, Jose Ortega

A 'Five Spiced Old Fashioned' with bourbon, five spice and angostura bitters

A 'Sazerac' with rye, sugar, Peychaud's, angostura bitters and absinthe

BBQ Octopus with daikon hair, dashi braised daikon disc, soy gelée, momijioroshi vinaigrette 
and grated dry chorizo

We enjoyed a delicious 2010 Portuguese Bairrada Baga Campolargo suggested by CBP's friendly and informative bar manager Sean Radzio

Creste Rigate with duck confit, duck heart, parsnip cream, crispy duck skin 
and seasonal mushrooms

Bucatini Carbonara


'Green Eggs'n Ham' Carbonara
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy Executive Chef Jay Scaife

1lb bucatini
2 tbsp grated pecorino romano
2 tbsp grated grana padano
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup guanciale or pancetta cut into small lardons
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
2 pieces of thinly sliced prosciutto

Pea purée: makes 1 cup
1 cup cooked garden peas
3 tbsp 35% cream

Place 1 cup cooked garden peas in a blender with 3 tablespoons of 35% cream, and purée until smooth then set aside. Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Place the prosciutto on a lined baking sheet and cook until crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and set aside. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the bucatini and stir well to keep from sticking together. Cook till al dente, about 3-4 minutes if using fresh, or 7-8 minutes if using dry. 

While the pasta is cooking, place the guanciale in a skillet over medium heat and crisp up the edges slightly. Once crisp, place in a wooden bowl, along with the pecorino, grana padano, parsley, black pepper, egg yolks and tablespoon of pea purée. Drain the pasta water and reserve about 1 tablespoon water. 

Add the cooked pasta and water to wooden bowl, stirring well to ensure even distribution of ingredients and green colouring — the pasta should have a nice creamy look to it. Dish up and garnish with crispy prosciutto and enjoy immediately!