Just a hop, skip and jump from downtown Toronto is a wonderful, warm and inviting Italian restaurant called Aielli ristorante. Aielli is a great combination of both the comfortable neighbourhood eatery perfect for a weekday lunch, and a lovely destination restaurant suited for a romantic dinner or the celebration of a special occasion. This year, Aielli is celebrating its 30th anniversary, a true milestone. It was in 1973 that Mariana and Antonio Macerola achieved their dream after immigrating t
o this country from Italy and opened their own restaurant. Their son, Louis, is now the proud proprietor.
The first thing that strikes you is the warm terracotta façade and the inviting red awning outside. Enter and the large open kitchen greets you on the right. In front of you, the large bar is presided over by a portrait of Louis' parents, his two daughters and his nephew, representing the past and the future. The dining room is a lovely space decorated with hand-painted murals of Roman frescos. Large upholstered, u-shaped banquettes line both sides of the room inviting intimate conversation and leisurely dining.
Louis describes the cuisine at Aielli as "eclectic Italian" with a focus on local ingredients. "We are so lucky to live in a time and place where we have access to such a wide variety of gorgeous food. We love being able to incorporate these ingredients into our kitchen." Menu items include the best Canada has to offer: Quebec maple syrup, Alberta beef, Ontario pork, PEI mussels, as well as the freshest produce available.
While you can't go wrong with any menu selection, there are several favourites not to be missed. The Apple Wood Smoked Salmon Trout appetizer is house smoked at the restaurant and is served with red onion marmalade and a delectable roast beet relish - a wonderful start to any meal. For a spectacular entrée, try the amazing Whiskey Fig Crusted Ontario Pork Chops. This huge plate of two double cut pork chops coated with a rich sweet fig jam and served with maple bourbon sauce, pan-fried gnocchi and seasonal vegetables is absolutely incredible.
All desserts at Aielli are made on premises, except one - the Double Chocolate Cheesecake. Louis says, "This is everyone's favorite. We would love to be able to make it, but the recipe is a family secret." Whose family you may ask? Well apparently the restaurant is lucky enough to have apprentice chef, Simon Amyotte training in the kitchen, because, it is Simon's mom, Daniele Roch, who supplies them with the decadent homemade cheesecakes - but not the secret recipe.
One of Louis' great loves is wine and he's made it a real focus at the restaurant. Aielli has the largest wine cellar in all of Mississauga, with over 450 varieties to choose from. With bottles that range in price from $30 to $800, Louis says, "We have something for every taste at every price point." They were the winners of the Wine Spectator's "Award of Excellence" in 2000 and 2002, and this year they are going for the "Best of Award of Excellence." In fact, Louis feels so strongly about the pairing of good wine with good food, he has printed up a pocket guide to help his customers who may not be as well versed on the subject.
It must be mentioned that while dining at Aielli would be a treat regardless of the expense, the restaurant not only offers great food but great value. Louis says, "One of the benefits of dining outside downtown Toronto is that you don't have to pay downtown Toronto prices." So for a wonderful meal that you won't soon forget, get in your car and take the short trip out to Port Credit - you will be glad you did.