Miriam Cosalini loves people. It's clearly what she is meant to do-talk with people and make them feel good.
Miriam owns La Scala Ristorante along with her restaurateur husband, Hector, and for the last four years, they have been serving a loyal clientele that seem more like extended family members than customers.
"Customers are like my guests. We give them the very best," Miriam says.
The intimate restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner, but it's here at the dinner house that you
have the luxury of settling back into the quiet ambiance and attentive care that is as integral to La Scala as the food.
Like entering a friend's formal dining room, the restaurant has a warm, familiar touch. Spacious seating under chandeliers emitting a soft glow suits a romantic dinner or a special occasion. Carpeting and multi-level seating allow for an intimate experience while the comfortable ivory-coloured chairs imply that you will end up staying awhile.
The dishes are prepared simply, but in such a way that it surpasses anything you could do at home. Chef Nino (Carmine O'Otolo) has created a "mix of old traditional Italian with Mediterranean" dishes. The small menu has additional weekly specials, ensuring that there is something for everyone.
Everything is made in house and from scratch, including the bread which changes daily. Today's offering is a warm wheat and honey bread that is dense with a flour-dusted crust. It's because of homemade bread like this I understand why there are so many crazy bread lovers in the world.
The Caprese Salad ($9) -vine tomatoes, fiore di latte mozzarella and fresh basil drizzled with rich, extra virgin olive oil-is superb in its freshness and simplicity. Polpo alla Griglia ($11) features fire-grilled octopus atop a bed of mixed greens with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. The octopus is meaty with charred tentacles and is delightfully chewy without being rubbery.
The Tagliolini Mediterraneo ($22) highlights the fresh, in-house made pasta alongside tiger shrimp, sea scallops, capers, black olives, green onions and white wine all in a light tomato sauce. The combination of sweet seafood with the saltiness of the capers and olives provides a nice balance. It is a fresh, light dish that is wholly satisfying.
But it's the Vitella con Porcini ($23) that has captivated me. Milk-fed veal scallopini, imported porcini mushrooms, white wine and veal jus swirl together to create a creamy mouth-watering sensation.
Of course, the porcini mushrooms come with their own story. Miriam doesn't like dried mushrooms; she says the flavour is never nearly as robust as when they are fresh. Porcinis are also incredibly difficult to get. But because Chef Nino worked in Montreal, he has found someone who can import them from Italy in order to supply the restaurant. Their flavour is rich and earthy and just slightly nutty. It adds depth to the soft veal and complements the creamy new potatoes, crisp broccoli, sweet red pepper, carrots and zucchini.
For dessert, a large piece of homemade Tiramisu ($7) arrives and I ashamed to say that I polished off three-quarters of this monster slice. I couldn't help myself-the cold, creamy texture is so light and despite being heavily dusted in chocolate, is not overly sweet. Paired with an expertly made cappuccino, it's an indulgent, yet perfect, cap to the meal.
In the end, it's rare that I walk into a place for the first time and feel such a longing to come back. But don't be surprised if it happens to you, too, after you finish your first meal at La Scala Ristorante.