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Posted on February 29, 2012 by in King West

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3 stars

- Relatively new to the King West theatre district, and across the street from the Bell Lightbox, is Paese.  New to the neighbourhood, but not new to the restaurant scene, Paese has been operating out of their Bathurst street location since 1989.  Serving up Italian comfort food in a casual but sleek atmosphere, Paese might give longtime district resident Kit Kat some competition.

With a monochromatic colour scheme, butcher block tables and exposed brick, Paese is very welcoming, even for someone who happened to be dining alone (see: yours truly).

My server brought the customary bread to the table…but this was no ordinary bread and oil. The bread itself was warm and chewy with a pretzel like flavour.  It came with an olive, rosemary and thyme tapenade that was rich and salty.  I tried to stop after one slice, but failed miserably.  I managed to leave one out of the four slices on the plate but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t staring at it longingly throughout dinner.

Next, came my Beet Caprese Salad ($13).  Grilled beets came topped with a generous portion of mozzarella di bufala, drizzled with pistachio pesto and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.  The combination of flavours and textures worked well together, and it was just a very fresh salad overall. If seasons were characterized by salads this one would be spring.  It was filling enough to be my main course, but I wasn’t done yet.

As full of bread and beets as I was, I couldn’t wait for my cavatelli ($13).  Hand rolled and made with semolina it had a texture similar to gnocchi but it wasn’t as filling.  The sauce was reminiscent of my grandmothers, and that’s a compliment as although she wasn’t Italian, she was married to one and had learned a thing or two over the years.

I had initially sent away the wine menu, although I’m not sure why exactly.  Maybe it was an unexpected burst of responsibility on my part as it was a weekday afternoon and I had another review to do…but those are hardly excuses not to partake.  It’s part of the job after all.  Either way, one of the resident sommeliers saw right through me and insisted on returning the wine menu to my table.  Smart man.

Paese has an extensive wine list and while most can only be purchased by the bottle, they do have a comprehensive list that is sold by the glass.  Now I’m no expert on wine, but I do drink a lot of the stuff so I know what I like, and I like Amarone.  I was given a sample of a 2004 Fumanelli Amarone before committing to a full glass, after which I gave the go ahead for my server to fill ‘er up.  Rich and full-bodied it was a great complement to my meal, but as far as I’m concerned it would be a great complement to anything…cheese, pasta, breakfast…

Because of its location, I probably won’t make a repeat visit but I don’t think Paese is having a hard time attracting other customers.  I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have a good and affordable meal with some vino before or after catching a show.

 – Rebecca

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