I am still relishing the lightly crisped homemade gnocchi in that delectable stracchino sauce sprinkled with sweet corn niblets and thinly shaved truffle resting on top.

In fact, this morning I am burning —-“Ardo” in Italian,—- (although the name is a nickname of Chef Marotta’s son,) with the rediscovered excitement I experienced just a while back when for the first time I bit into the crunchy, savoury shell of an authentic Sicilian arancino and found a creamy, oozy and utterly delicious path to the Elysian Fields.

It’s all coming back now: that hot sultry Sicilian sun beating down on my shoulders as I sat outside the Monreale cathedral just above Palermo. A little café/ rosticceria across the street from the cathedral had the most mouth-watering arancini displayed in the glass-domed counter. Resisting would have been futile. The stupendous, magnificent mosaics inside the cathedral were something to marvel at, but now this arancino, being slowly savoured, its creamy rice and savoury sauce and oozy cheese heart was ripping me apart with delight.

And it has all come back to me, just sitting at this wonderful little restaurant that has recently opened here in Toronto. Ardo is all about authentic Sicilian cuisine and not just this: it is about genuine Italian hospitality that Chef Roberto Marotta practices with the same deft ability as, I’m sure, he uses in making those fabulous little gnocchi.

Ardo is a small but comfortable and pleasantly decorated restaurant, which just recently opened its doors at 243 King Street east, and invites patrons to visit beautiful Sicily through its exquisite cuisine. Traditional Sicilian dishes such as

Pasta alla Norma, and a Spicy Seafood Couscous are presented with a modern twist; the Spaghetti con Sarde

are tossed with raisins, and the cannoli presented in the spuntini section are savoury. The arancini are heavenly and the grilled octopus is just the start of an amazing culinary adventure that concludes with the best traditional Sicilian cannoli (this side of the Atlantic), filled with sweet ricotta, candied orange, and roasted pistachios. Bite into one of these and you are immediately transported to Sicily whose cuisine is reminiscent of sunshine, Arab and North African flavours, and all that is good that comes from the land.

photos courtesy of Ardo restaurant

In Toronto we are finally becoming acquainted with the food of this Mediterranean island. Chef Roberto, chef/owner of this great little Sicilian place in the city’s east end, moved to Canada from his native Milazzo, a port city on the northeast coast of Sicily. He is now, through his dishes, bringing his Sicily to Toronto.

Sometimes the best travel can happen at a good restaurant.

ARDO Restaurant 243 King Street East Toronto, Ontario M5A 1J9


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