For more than two decades, Paradiso has been dishing up Mediterranean-inspired fare to the denizens of Oakville, Ont., the prosperous bedroom community about 45 minutes west of Toronto. (A second, newer location operates in nearby Burlington.)
Augmenting the back dining room is the more intimate, and more casual, front eating area featuring understated lighting, semi-circular padded booths and copper-topped tables.
Leading things off is the kitchen’s irresistible house-made bread, followed by an inspired, pizza-like take on bruschetta — grilled flatbread topped with brightly flavoured basil arugula pesto, tomato salsa and sharp asiago cheese.
A sophisticated relish of roasted fennel and bell peppers animates crab cakes garnished with pickled caper aioli.
Pastas shine. A staple of the menu since the restaurant’s launch, ravioli, stuffed with sweet crab, spinach and chevre, and set atop basil cream, are tender and rich, without being cloying. Dill-scented tomato sauce anchors tagliatelle noodles loaded with mussels, shrimp and ultra-tender calamari rings. Spaghetti is tossed with rich, garlic-sweetened ragu of veal and braised beef that would gladden an Italian grandmother’s heart.
Other mains are similarly successful. A generous triangle of crisp phyllo pastry is stuffed with a delicious mix of roasted veggies, ricotta and feta, and set atop chili aioli. Barley risotto, zucchini jalapeno relish and avocado puree flatter a thick slab of superbly moist Pacific cod.
Ending this Oakville feast is a sturdy-crusted, not-too-sweet pecan tart; pleasant cheesecake garnished with pumpkin butter and spiced apple compote; and intense, flourless dark chocolate tart sparked by peppermint cream.
Seating 160 people, the restaurant is available for group buyout. Also available are two private rooms, one seating 40 and accommodating 50, cocktail style, and the other seating 50 and hosting 60, cocktail style.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 25 years and, during that time, has critiqued almost 1,000 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.