Thursday, July 14, 2016

Terroni: Cucina Italiana in the Heart of Rosedale

Rooted in traditional Southern Italian cuisine, wine, and culture, Terroni began as a tiny panini store in 1992 when Cosimo Mammoliti and good friend Paolo Scoppio returned from a summer in Puglia with an idea to open a place in Toronto. Paolo’s family already imported southern Italian staples and Cosimo had experience bartending and working front of house, but neither of them had much of a plan, but they had a family connection to a storefront on Queen West and they took it. Though now a thriving, hip neighbourhood, Queen West of 1992 was in rough shape. Better known for drugs and illicit sex than for Italian food, the prospects for the store didn’t appear promising. Across the street, a local personality named Bernie owned an antique shop. When Cosimo and Paolo raised a sign with the name, “I Due Terroni,” Bernie walked over and recommended they shorten it. “It needs to be memorable,” he said. And with advice from that unlikeliest of sources, Terroni was born. 

Today the ever-expanding Terroni family now boasts five locations in Toronto and two in Los Angeles. Meeting up with family on a hot sultry weeknight, we landed a gorgeous table on the bustling and enormously popular rooftop terrace of Terroni's upscale Rosedale location at Price and Yonge. Having waiting over an hour for our table, we were hungry to explore Terroni's infamous Southern Italian menu of classic Sicilian and Pugliese dishes such as Insalata Caprese, Funghi Assoluti, luscious Gnocchi alla Simi with tomato sauce, fresh ricotta, basil and parmigiana and fragrant Rigatoni Arcobaleno with mozzarella di bufala, zucchini, light cherry tomato sauce and fresh basil. With a selection of 30 pizzas from which to choose, we decided on Pizza Quattro Stagioni with tomato, mozzarella, prosciutto di parma, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini and olives, and a perfectly grilled Branzino served with a mixed bean and baby kale salad. For those with a sweet tooth, a short menu of decadent dolce make an irresistible end to a wonderful evening under the stars.  

The enormously popular outdoor rooftop terrace of Terroni's Yonge & Price Rosedale location

The summer menu of Southern Italian-style dishes

Glass of Italian Rosé from the Veneto

Caprese Salad with seasonal tomatoes, mozzarella di buffalo and fresh basil on a bed of wild arugula

Fungi Assoluti - baked oyster mushrooms with parmigiana and bread crumbs, on a bed of arugula dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Gnocchi alla Simi with tomato sauce, fresh ricotta, basil and parmigiana

Rigatoni Arcobaleno with mozzarella di bufala, zucchini, light cherry tomato sauce and fresh basil

Grilled Bronzino with mixed bean and baby kale salad

Quattro Stagioni with tomato, mozzarella, prosciutto di parma, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini and olives with pits

Homemade Gnocchi with Smoked Mozzarella
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of Enza Aloi, Executive Chef, Terroni

3 medium russet potatoes, about 1 3/4-pounds
1 large egg yolk
2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, or more as needed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 roasted red peppers, peel, seeded and cut into julienne
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
4 1/4-inch thick slices smoked mozzarella, cubed
2 tbsp shredded fresh basil
2 cup fresh or canned tomato sauce
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Grated Parmesan, to taste
2 1/4-inch thick slices smoked mozzarella, cubed
2 tbsp shredded fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pierce the potatoes a few times with a sharp paring knife and place them in the oven. Bake them until tender and cooked through, about 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle — the hotter the potatoes, the lighter the gnocchi — peel the potatoes and pass them through a ricer, then spread on a baking sheet and let cool completely.

Once potatoes are cooled, gather them into a mound on a cutting board and form a well in the centre. Put the egg yolk into the well and begin kneading the potato and egg together with both hands, gradually adding the grated Parmesan and enough of the flour to form a smooth but slightly sticky dough. (Keep in mind that the longer the dough is kneaded, the more flour it will require and the heavier it will become.)

Roll the dough into finger thick strips and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Sprinkle the pieces lightly with flour. Using the tines of a fork and the tip of your thumb take one segment and roll it downward toward the tips of the tines. This action will give your dumpling a deep indentation on one side and a ridged surface on the other. Place the dumplings on a baking sheet lined with a floured kitchen towel, and cook immediately or freeze.

To freeze the gnocchi, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread a single layer of gnocchi on the parchment. Cover the layer of gnocchi with another sheet of parchment. Spread another layer of gnocchi on the parchment. Repeat with remaining gnocchi, finishing with a layer of parchment paper. Then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze.

For the sauce, start by heating the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the roasted red peppers and the parsley, then add the cubed smoked mozzarella and the basil. Finally, add the tomato sauce and simmer. Season to taste.

Bring 6 quarts salted water to a rigorous boil. Add the gnocchi, stirring gently and continuously with a wooden spoon, cooking the gnocchi until they rise to the surface, about 1 minute. After they rise to the surface continue cooking them for an additional minute.

Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon or a skimmer, and transfer to the saucepan with the sauce. Stir until the gnocchi are covered with the sauce. Plate and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan, cubed smoked mozzarella and the shredded basil.

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