Thursday, October 29, 2015

La Bettola: Italian Cuisine & French Baroque Opera

One of the more recent additions to the Terroni family of restaurants which now boasts 6 locations in Toronto and 2 in Los Angeles, La Bettola di Terroni features a Southern Italian menu of classic Terroni dishes focused on Pugliese and Sicilian cuisine. The stylish rustic urban-industrial interior is by Giannone Petricone Associates: “We have a palette for Terroni: always real stone, ceramics, steel and wood.” La Bettola — derived from the Latin 'bevettola,' which means 'place where you can drink' — bettolas used to be shady taverns, usually frequented by criminals and people of the lowest class, basically a hole in the wall that's been around forever. You go there for a glass of wine, a bite to eat and everything — and everyone — is familiar. Boasting an impressive all-Italian wine list and classic Southern Italian menu, dishes such as Carpaccio di Pesce Spada, Funghi Assoluti, Arancíni filled with peas and veal ragu, and house-made Agnolotti filled with braised beef in a butter sage and parmigiano sauce seduce the palate, as well as pizzas, homemade Italian sausages, tempting salads, zuppas and decadent dolce. Walking distance to the Elgin Theatre, La Bettola was a short stroll to Opera Atelier's celebrated production of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s masterpiece 'Armide', for which we had tickets that evening, and that’s travelling to the Royal Theatre in Versailles just after it finishes its run in Toronto. One of the most enthralling love stories of all time, played out against a background of hopeless love, obsession and magic — La Bettola was our starting point for an inspiring evening of simple Sicilian cuisine, Italian wine and sumptuous French baroque opera. Life is good.

Hendricks with Fever Tree Tonic with cucumber, as part of a special Gin menu at La Bettola

Whimsical tin can pendant lighting 

The menu features classic Terroni dishes with a Pugliese and Sicilian twist

The 'menu specialita' for the evening

Zuppa di Minstar with carrots, celery, onion, Romansch broccoli, tomato, potato, white beans and squash 

Fritto Misto of deep fried lightly floured calamari and shrimp with fresh lemon

Insalata di Barbabietole with beets, lambs lettuce, goat cheese, candied hazelnuts and orange

Chimaera Norcina with homemade Italian sausage, black truffle shavings 
and thick al dente chitarra spaghetti

Opera Atlier's exquisitely beautiful Armide

Ravioli with Asparagus, Mint and Mascarpone
Serves 4 
Recipe courtesy of Enza Aloi, Executive Chef Terroni

17 oz tub smooth ricotta 
10 oz package spinach, fresh or frozen, finely chopped
Parmigiano Reggiano, to taste
Salt and Pepper, to taste

3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour 
2 large eggs
3/4 cup water 

2 tbsp olive oil 
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 tbsp mascarpone 
2 tbsp butter 
1 cup chicken stock or water
12 stalks of asparagus, chopped into 2-inch pieces 
1/2 cup chopped mint 
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mascarpone, for garnish
Fresh mint, for garnish
Parmigiano Reggiano, to taste

Combine the ricotta, spinach and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a medium bowl and mix until well combined. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. 

To make pasta by hand, pour the flour in a mound on a clean surface and using a fork, make a well in the centre and place the eggs and water in the well, and mix well to incorporate. Knead the dough by hand to produce an elastic ball of dough, then divide into pieces and begin stretching using a pasta machine. Roll the dough into thick sheets, starting at the thickest setting, reducing the pasta setting one mark each time until you reach the final setting. For the ravioli, stretch the pasta to a thickness of less than 1/16 inch. 

Place the sheet of pasta onto a lightly floured ravioli tray, and using a piping bag or two spoons, place a small amount of filling onto each square, then top with another layer of pasta. Lightly flour the top and flip the tray over. Gently press down on the tray to seal the edges. Slowly lift the tray and with a zigzagged cutter, cut along all edges and place onto a baking sheet until ready to use. If not using immediately, you can freeze the ravioli for approximately 2 hours on a cookie sheet and then place into a freezer bag to store for later use.

Cook the ravioli in a large pot of salted boiling water for a few minutes until the ravioli float to the top. Drain and add immediately to the sauce.

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a large saucepan. Add the asparagus and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in the butter and chicken stock and continue cooking until the asparagus in tender. Once the ravioli are ready, gently place them into the sauce and add the mascarpone and stir until the sauce is incorporated. Finish with a dollop of mascarpone, fresh mint leaves and a sprinkle of parmigiano-reggiano. This recipes makes 48 ravioli, approximately 12 per person.