There’s a bit of excitement in the air. Restaurants are easing back to indoor dining as we all try and keep up with the continued pandemic protocols. We may not all be quite ready unless it’s a worthy occasion. Recently TOCA Trattoria (TheRitz-Carlton, Toronto) announced an irresistible evening out. One of Italy’s most celebrated and Michelin-starred chefs, Oliver Glowig, was flown into the city direct from Rome for a one-night-only dinner experience. Needless to say, the word was out quickly and the reservations were snapped up fast. Double vaxxed and bubbled with tables distanced it was a welcomed change from the months of home cooking and take-out boxes.
The menu was a more elevated ristorante style fare featuring freshly made dishes that included ingredients that specifically brought in to TOCA upon Chef Glowig’s request. The five-course dinner featured authentic flavours from the Eternal City as Master Sommelier Élyse Lambert beautifully paired each dish with memorable wines from a few of the best regions in the world. By the way, she was named the 5th Best Sommelier in the World. There are only 269 Master Sommeliers in the world. If you’re a wine lover, you’ll definitely want to chat with her!
We had the opportunity to chat with Chef Glowig while he was in our city.
Italian cuisine always comes to mind as a favourite for many but there are different regions and influences, can you tell us about your favourites?
Chef Glowig: I agree, the Italian kitchen is different from north to south. Each region has different products which makes Italian cuisine so unique. My favorite regions are Campania, Naples and the Amalfi coast. I worked for more than 10 years in the Capri area. We have access to not only fresh local fish here, but also great vegetables like tomatoes, basil, zucchini etc. The fresh buffalo mozzarella is especially amazing.
I just started a new project, Borgo Petroro, near the Todi, Umbria region, in the green heart of central Italy. Products are different here from Capri, but also high quality. Here, I use more truffles, meats: beef and even duck & pigeon, and legumes: lentils and chickpeas.
For Borgo Petroro and the Locanda Petreja, my inspiration was to create an authentic Italian experience but intuitive cuisine linked to Umbria. I use local traditions and produce with my unique vision.
What is one Italian dish that everyone should try once in their lifetime?
Chef Glowig: The most simple but at the same time most difficult dish, “Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil”. But try it with the authentic local ingredients.
Can you share the inspiration for this very special one-night menu at TOCA?
Chef Glowig: At TOCA, we have my signature and most popular dishes on the menu. The Toronto menu is inspired by what is popular here in Italy to provide guests with an authentic Italian experience, using a combination of Italian and local ingredients.
During the pandemic, many people have taken the time to adjust, maybe learn something new. What has this time offered for you?
Chef Glowig: I reflected a lot during the pandemic. At the end, I said to myself, ‘Go back to your roots’. I was looking for a new project where I could be 100% involved in the kitchen. I did not want to do any more consulting. I considered a move to Toronto, to open my own restaurant there. That has always been a dream for me.
In the meantime though, I met an investor who bought the Castello Petroro, Country Relais & Restaurant. He offered me a partnership. He gave me the key in hand and said I would manage this place. Since November 2020, I have been there every day. I am back in the kitchen and responsible for the whole operation. The Borgo Petroro kitchen, my new home. I continue only with TOCA at The Ritz Carlton, Toronto, a project dear to my heart. I have been collaborating them for 8 years and I love this hotel and restaurant, because of their commitment to excellence.
What do you find interesting about Toronto?
Chef Glowig: Everything! Toronto is the most beautiful city in the world and has such diversity that you can enjoy authentic foods from around the world without having to leave the city.
Aside from creating a new menu for TOCA, what else will you be doing in Toronto on this visit?
Chef Glowig: I’m just glad to be back, I have a lot of friends in Toronto. It will be a busy week to meet with them all.
However, the most important thing for me on this trip is to stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto and work with the team at TOCA. We will change the menu for the fall season and train the staff to be able to provide an authentic Italian experience every time. I am proud to be able to serve our guests a truly seasonal menu that inspires even our loyal guests to keep coming back to try our new dishes.
If you have a special occasion coming up, maybe a staycation in mind? The Ritz-Carlton is an ideal destination in the city that offers all visitors a chance to safely indulge. You won’t want to leave.
We are also looking forward to checking out the newly opened EPOCH restaurant that takes the space of DEQ. With its gorgeous heated patio and indoor dining, this more casual restaurant serves up British pub fare. Don’t worry, their famous fries are still on the menu! Stay tuned!
*All food photography by Sonya Davidson