Ufficio: where the kitchen is an office, and your table a desk.
Tell me, why Ufficio, Stacey? Well, that is what Marlo Onilla of www.biographydesign.com and one of 3 partners decided it should be called. Marlo is the brains behind the design and concept of Ufficio while partners, Stacey Patterson and Jennifer Coburn, are the hands on in the daily running of this totally perfect new restaurant along the Dundas West strip.
Now, a total confession, I have known Stacey for over 28 years and she has been in the industry all the time I have known her. She is a friend and because of this I was hesitant in visiting Ufficio before it had gotten its sea legs. We were having a little chat with her social media and brilliant mixologist, Rob Granicolo of the www.theminstergroup.com, and she basically said for me to get myself over there. So I did with my mega friend, blogger and photographer Suzie Durigon aka www.justcrumbs.ca . I now must tell you that after having the Ufficio experience you should run, not walk, get a reservation and go.
Ufficio is a small restaurant, around 40 seats including the bar. I love that the tables are well spaced and you do not feel like you are sitting on your neighbour's lap.
Stacey said she“ wanted to create a concept that no one else was doing," After years of observing the way people eat she noticed the requests for fish and veggie centric dishes were being requested more and more. Stacey went on to say that local and sustainable are very important but did not want the label" local and sustainable". This is simply who they are and the labeling is not the priority, serving the best that they possibly can is.
On the night I was there I was seatedby the window at Table 1, I recommend this table along with the back tables 3 and 4. These tables are round, crazy comfy, big beautiful areas and I just loved sitting by the window. Here, I am able to watch the diners come in and be warmly greeted and I can also see the characters passing by outside. Stacey and Jennifer are sublime hosts making everyone welcome all while running a restaurant that is stunningly designed with a warm welcoming attitude. I was sitting next to Stacey’s Aunt and partner and at the next table were guys from neighbouring bar, The Churchill. If you do decide to drop in and a table is not available the ladies will send you there for a cocktail and call when a table becomes free. Back to Aunt Sandy and the Churchill table, well this was just such fun. Everyone was chatting and sharing plates, playing People Geography; “How do you know the girls” and more. The bar was also like this, everyone just chatting and the atmosphere so inviting.
What, you want to know what I ate? Okay, I will get to that right now. It may come as a crazy surprise but I sat down with Suzie and promptly we ordered cocktails, ha! Suzie had, I think, the better of the two, it being a Broji 2.0 that is named after one of Ufficio’s best customers and clearly a bourbon lover as it has; muddled Ontario strawberries, fresh mint, bourbon, black pepper, burnt honey, lemon and topped with a splash of ginger beer. Mine was almost as good was a Picante Pasini; Tequila Tromba, Aperol, chili, grapefruit and fresh lime.
And then the incredible eats began to arrive. We always allow the kitchen to pick as both of us love surprises and cannot make decisions. If you are feeling like a little fun I recommend you do this in any restaurants you go to, feel free to give parameters and then party forth.
Homemade focaccia is usually a second thought but this is a bread not only to order but tell the kitchen you need a loaf to take home. Yes, it is that good. Served warm and grilled it is perfect for all the sauces you will be dippinginto. Artichoke Fritti are smashed lightly fried artichokes with ribbons of zucchini and Montforte Goat Fresco. I loved the raw, fried and creamy elements to this dish. Shisito Peppers are on a ton of menus and rightly so as they are so very fun to snack on with drinks. Ufficio’s come with a super Ontario garlic homemade aioli that is rich and gets a bit melted when the shishito’s are run through it. Do not miss the Razor Clams with fregola and braised artichokes, but do share them, as there are 4 to a plate and 2 are perfect for a taste.
Two salads were next to the table, an Insalata di Carciofi and Insalata Gemma Bambino. Artichokes are in season and they are delicious hence a menu full of them. The artichoke salad is raw and shaved with parsley, roasted grapes, garlic chips and shaved parmigiana, and the Baby Gem Salad is charred half heads and served with raw Ontario plums, peaches and ricotta salata.
I love crudo, I love how it is dressed in loads of good olive oil and always has such a burst of flavour when made well. I am also addicted to Tuna Crudo so when I spotted this on the menu I made a special request to Stacey to give it a try. Now is the time you need more of that killer focaccia as the ever so lightly poached Albacore tuna comes with heirloom Ontario cherry tomatoes and pesto.
The pasta is made by a chef with natural Nonna’s hands and is velvety and so good. Keep in mind they like everything else on the menu are seasonal so may not be in appearance when you drop in. I do promise that whatever they are, do not miss at least one. On the night I was there we had a stunning Agnolotti di Mais with charred corn, corn butter emulsion and crunchy paprika breadcrumbs, bloody insane.
Last up for our mains was Polpo alla Griglia with a black chickpea ragu, pickled Ontario cherry tomatoes and big leaf arugula. I like this dish because, like a good roast chicken, it is the simple things that are the most difficult to make well and Ufficio’s octopus was tender with a bit of crisp and a little char and did not disappoint.
Dessert was a seasonal special, a halved White Peach with a melted torrone base, crispy crunchy crumble and a vanilla semi-freddo and not on the menu but if it was any indication of their sweet treats then I am not missing them.
Brunch, a favourite before the summer, will be backstarting September 10th and not to be missed. Brunch may also be reserved, something I personally love. Brunch treats will include; Filet O’Fish a beautiful rendition of the fun one with lightly battered sustainable haddock, sauce Gribiche, tender Boston lettuce all nestled in a homemade milk bun. Spanish toast which sounds like my kind of eats is their beautiful focaccia grilled, rubbed in tomato, topped with wild mushrooms, poached eggs and melted stracciatella, just a little something to entice your taste buds.
I will be going back and maybe I will see you and we can pass plates back and forth. If you do decide to join Stacey and Jennifer let them know we are pals.
Cheers and eat well,