It’s that time of the year again where everyone’s favourite culinary celebration in Toronto is upon us. Summerlicious has officially started (from July 3rd to July 26th) where more than 210 restaurants across this city are offering three-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menus at a fraction of what you would normally pay.
Also for the first time ever, Summerlicious will be extending the celebrations by an additional week due to the Pan Am Games, so there is even more time now for you to indulge and taste some of the diverse cuisine this city has to offer!
A prime example of a restaurant ready to welcome you with open arms over the next 3 weeks is Aria Ristorante, located adjacent to the Air Canada Centre and Maple Leaf Square. With its dramatic 35 foot ceiling and contemporary design, you will be transported inside to a luxurious fine dining experience where an infusion of Italian cuisine, design, and culture will take over.
With such a successful Summerlicious last year, Aria Ristorante has crafted a stunning menu in an ode to Mother Italy for this year’s diners. Think octopus carpaccio with Calabrian chillies and charred pineapple or local grilled beef with broccoli rabe crema and sweet corn potato crisps. Once the mains are done, the sweets are delightful, Italian-inspired ways for you to finish the perfect dinner, like the bufala mozzarella gelato with tomato and strawberry gazpacho or the vanilla budino with local peaches.
I was fortunate enough to dive even deeper to this Summerlicious menu as I had the chance to interview Chef Eron Novalski and find out how he crafted the menu for Summerlicious 2015. All the while learning more about him and his culinary journey that has currently led him here to one of the best Italian restaurants this city has to offer.
Chef Eron Novalski began his culinary journey in the kitchen as a tiny infant, creating his own recipes. Upon graduation in Culinary Management at George Brown College, he studied at Le Manoir Culinary Institute in Paris, graduating with honours. Having the advantage of being fully bilingual, Eron worked at the prestigious ‘Tour D'Argent Restaurant’ in Paris, one of the most famous restaurants in the world where it even inspired scenes in the 2007 Pixar movie, Ratatouille.
After completing his studies, Eron embarked on a wine and culinary tour through France and Italy and returned to Canada with a broader knowledge of French and Italian cuisine. Eron worked at Senses for five years and during that time traveled to New York to work with some of the top Chefs in the United States. He also participated in the James Beard event in New York, Vancouver and Toronto.
A passionate food aficionado, Eron brought a wealth of knowledge acquired through his travels abroad working at Noce Restaurant in Toronto. Just as he did in the kitchen at Noce, now as Aria’s Executive Chef, he spares no expense in sourcing the freshest, highest quality ingredients to create dishes of elegant simplicity.
When discussing what his thought process and influences were into creating the 2015 Summerlicious menu, Chef Novalski tells me “My main influences are always doing something new, keeping things innovative but simple using the best local and Italian-sourced ingredients.” In being able to put ingredients and flavours together, one must know the science behind it. He explains, “History and culture are very important in understanding what food is all about. It’s like art and history. Things are being executed a certain way because of our environment and seasonality.”
The one thing I quickly noticed when looking at this year’s menu was exactly what he touched upon. The use of local and Italian-sourced ingredients is extremely prevalent on this year’s menu and it turns out he will have it no other way. “Local produce, International food”, this is my new mantra. Using local ingredients in kitchens has been a success story and a major plank of Toronto’s dining scene push. Certainly we are all doing what foodists want us to do. Rather than letting the food-industrial complex steamroll our culture, we Canadians (and all other worldwide cultures) are fighting back and wanting the regional specificity of our food - in a way that links into issues of memory and history.“
Now with each Summerlicious menu comes choices. At times you may stumble upon a menu where it is extremely difficult to pick out a dish because everything on the menu is just calling out your name. Looking at this year’s Summerlicious menu for Aria Ristorante, I’m afraid it will be no different as each offering seems just too good to pass. Knowing this I tried to find out for you guys what his personal favourites are on his menu to try to ease the pain when ordering. Chef Novalski tells me, “My favourite dishes on the menu are the testina and salmon crude from the Lunch menu and the asparagus salad from Dinner.” A good place to start if you ask me, straight from the chef’s mouth.
For all us foodies, Summerlicious is something we look forward to all year long. I personally find a lot of enjoyment being able to try out so many different restaurants in Toronto during this time, restaurants where I may not normally go to otherwise because of the price or for the simple fact that I may have never heard of it before. One great thing about Summerlicious is it puts a spotlight on so many different types of restaurants across this city, big or small, cuisine of all ethnicities, and talented chefs like Eron Novalski gets a chance to be creative in putting out stunning set menus, showcasing their culinary talents for an entire community to enjoy. “I love being part of this program because it is a way to celebrate being part of the restaurant community in Toronto. I am excited to show off Aria’s great cuisine and hospitality to the guests that may not normally dine with us, and hopefully turn them into regulars. I take great pride in our high level of food quality and service and the ability to share it with others.“
As we end here, I want to encourage everyone to take part in this 3 week long culinary celebration and check out a restaurant maybe you have never been before for either lunch or dinner. With the extra week given to us this year because of the Pan Am Games, there is no reason now not to. As a great beginning point, Aria Ristorante will be the perfect restaurant to start your culinary adventure with. It’s Italian cuisine at its finest and its as authentic as it can get. You are left in very capable hands from Chef Eron Novalski. I hope to see you all there!
Please call 416 363 2742 to make your reservation at Aria Ristorante today!
See below for their lunch and dinner menu.
25 YORK STREET
Photos do not belong to me