Warmly welcoming – La Sala review

La Sala

(photo not mine)

A relative newcomer to The Beaches neighbourhood in East Toronto, La Sala is an Italian restaurant that bridges the gap between family dining and fine dining.

Hosted in a renovated home just off Queen Street, La Sala offers a cosy, welcoming environment akin to visiting the home of a good friend. Decoration is subtle and the yellow walls both inside and out bring warmth to the dining experience.

While offering a variety of dishes, the menu is clean and simple, covering only a single page of $12 appetizers, $16 pastas and $20-$24 main courses that should please any palate.

For an appetizer, I opted for the eggplant parmesan (Parmigiana di Melanzane), which was generously portioned and nicely featured baked eggplant rather than what I expected to be fried. The surprise was my own fault, however, as the menu actually states the eggplant is baked. Baking the eggplant meant that you still got the full flavour of the vegetable while it retained its body (frying often seems to turn them into mush), and the eggplant nicely stood against the generously portioned tomato sauce, providing distinct mouth-feel and compartmentalized flavours.

My dining companion ordered the Romaine fennel and kale salad, which was generously accompanied by avocado dressing, bacon and croutons. Nicely, the salad did not appear to be drowned in dressing and the bacon was short strips rather than crumbles, giving my guest something to bite into.

(BTW: I know I am using the word generous a lot…you are not going home hungry.)

Dining room

Warm, inviting atmosphere (photo not mine)

As a main course, I ordered the butternut squash ravioli, my go-to dish when available both because I like the dish and because it affords me an opportunity to compare between restaurants. Covered in a beautiful butter and sage sauce that was very subtle both in flavour and weight, the ravioli were slightly undercooked, the pasta being a bit chewy. For its part, the butternut squash puree was nice, but could have stood with a bit more spice for my tastes, although my dining partner had no problem with it. For me, the challenge was that the puree struggled to compete with the strong saltiness of the parmesan shavings, and so the dish ended up being somewhat one-note.

More of a seafood fan than me, my partner ordered the seafood linguine (Linguine Frutti di Mare), which looked amazing and I am told was even better. La Sala did not scrimp on the seafood in this dish, the large plate being almost overwhelmed by the mussel and clam shells. And according to my companion, the calamari and octopus were cooked to perfection. Add in some shrimps and my friend spent the better part of the meal picking through the linguine to make sure she got all of the seafood available in the dish before digging into the pasta. To quote her: “This is the best seafood linguini I have ever eaten in my life.”

Jazz Festival

La Sala’s warmth fits nicely with The Beaches eclectic vibe

Having filled up on her salad and main course, my companion could not manage dessert, whereas I had little choice but to order the chocolate mousse with crispy almonds and whipped cream. The full-bodied mousse was delicate on the palate and yet offered plenty of flavour. And nicely, the portion size was large enough to share, but not so large as to leave this well-fed diner in distress.

As to the service, La Sala seems to pride itself on being very attentive to its customers as rarely did our water glasses empty before someone offered to refill them. Likewise, as we finished each course, the next one arrived dutifully. One of the staff was perhaps a tad too diligent with replacing our cutlery and napkins, as we almost ended up with a third napkin by the arrival of dessert, but as much as anything, I put that down to a half-filled house with a full staff—people had time on their hands.

Overall, the evening was a wonderful success and despite the minor setback with my main course, I will quite eagerly return to enjoy what is sure to become a neighbourhood favourite and as good a reason as any to visit The Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto.

Bliss

mourning-cloak-butterfly

I had an amazing moment earlier today that I wanted to share, a moment of complete peace and sheer bliss.

As I may have mentioned before, I am an amateur photographer and a lover of nature. In wandering along Toronto’s waterfront this morning, I passed some butterfly gardens.

Not my first time visiting these small gardens. I’ve even taken photos there.

But for whatever reason, today was magical because there were dozens of butterflies having the time of their lives flitting from flower to flower.

The movement attracted my eye and I wandered over to the gardens to enjoy the sight and grab a couple of shots with my cell phone. But as I stood there, the world fell completely away, and it was just me, the garden and the butterflies.

And rather than flit away to keep their distance, the butterflies accepted me into the moment, a few even briefly landing on my arms and shoulders.

I had somewhere to be, so the moment couldn’t last too long. I have every confidence, however, that if I had had the time available to me, it would have lasted as long as I chose.

Complete bliss, joy and comfort.

I’ll visit the gardens again. Maybe the moment will happen again; maybe not. But I have available to me this one time that it did, and that will sustain me.

monarchs

Sweltering on the boardwalk

This summer has been unbearably hot and humid in Toronto, but I was going stir-crazy without my weekly walk. So, throwing caution to the (complete lack of) wind, I grabbed my camera and hit the boardwalk and some nearby wooded areas.

Bombast of Victoria Day – part two

As promised, a few more shots of colour and fire from Monday’s Victoria Day celebrations along the eastern Beaches of Toronto.

See also:

Bombast of Victoria Day – part one

Bombast of Victoria Day – part one

Although not officially summer, the Victoria Day Weekend (aka May 2-4 weekend) signals the beginning of warmer weather and summer breezes in much of Canada. It is the weekend that everyone starts to plant their gardens, and when people abandon the big city for cottage country.

It is also the first of two weekends of fireworks (the other being July 1, Canada Day), and I am fortunate enough to live down the beach from one of the biggest fireworks shows in Toronto. Here are a handful of shots (blasts) from last night.

Still waiting, Spring!

In an ironic twist on an otherwise mild winter in Toronto, the month of April has been our snowiest month…and we’re only half way through the month. That said, it was gorgeous on Thursday, so I took advantage and wandered down to the boardwalk with my camera.

Winter (?) in the Beaches

This time last year, the beach near my home in Toronto was buried under several feet of snow and ice (see the photographic evidence here and here), but this year, not so much.

I managed to take the camera out yesterday and was surprised at how Spring-like the area was.