By Lory Diaz
The Extraordinary Italian Taste at Cibo Wine Bar took place on April 6, 2017, and Torontonicity was invited to attend at the Cibo Wine Bar Yorkville location! The event was organized by the Italian Trade Agency, funded by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry Policies, and hosted by Cibo Wine Bar and the Liberty Entertainment Group’s Nick Di Donato and the Italian Trade Commissioner to Canada, Pasquale Bora.
This event was a friendly introduction to a sampling of Italy’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) food products. These two titles are important because they identify food items that are produced, processed, and prepared in a specific geographical region under precise set of specifications. This maintains the quality and reputation of the region and the producers themselves.
I learned at the event that Italy has 805 recognized and protected names of quality agricultural products (this includes wine), and throughout the night, the Cibo team was creating dishes using some of these products. I started my evening sampling a slice of Cibo’s arugula and prosciutto pizza: great crust with just the right amount of sauce, but the prosciutto itself really was the star of every bite!
I then went over to the selection of cheeses and had a tough time deciding amongst the many options: provolone, bra, gorgonzola, pecorino, toma piemontese, mozzarella di bufala, fontina, and taleggio. I started with the Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, because the selection of olives also looked fantastic and thought they would pair nicely. The cheese was delightfully creamy and still retained some elasticity, a characteristic typically found hours after production.
There were three varieties of olive oil to sample, and one clearly stood out for its sweet and delicate flavours: Riviera Ligure PDO Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I learned that the harvest for this oil must be completed by March 31st each year to ensure flavour characteristics are maintained. This olive oil is ideal for salad dressings, drizzling over vegetables, or dipping your favourite fresh bread into: raw and untouched by heat.
A mushroom risotto was being prepared right in front of everyone, and Cibo staff were pouring the freshly cooked risotto onto a parmigiano reggiano wheel. After pouring it out, they would mix the risotto, carefully making sure to scrape the parmigiano underneath to combine it in. This was a fantastic presentation method, and ensured that the risotto being served was always hot and fresh.
Cibo staff were also circulating some pasta dishes, and first brought out a penne pasta with Alfredo sauce and crushed walnuts. I believe the kitchen was trying to keep dishes available to guests without any wait time, so the pasta was cooked a little more al dente than I would have liked. The dish had very light flavours though, and the walnuts were a wonderful addition.
Next came a diablo shrimp! This dish can be traditionally found in Mexican and Italian cuisine, and is characterized by its intense spiciness. Cibo served it as a singular piece with a bright red sauce. Thankfully for me, the shrimp wasn’t spicy, but instead bathed in a sauce full of vibrant tomato flavours.
I then tried another tomato based dish: rigatoni in marinara sauce. This is truly a staple of any Italian kitchen, and when done well, this dish is delicious and familiar in a comforting manner, reminding you of your grandparent’s kitchen.
Considering the ample seating space, and intimate setting on the lower level of Cibo Wine Bar’s Yorkville location, I would recommend the restaurant to anyone looking to have a cozy dinner with friends or family. The music isn’t too loud and allows for ease of conversation with larger groups, the menu is a good take on classic Italian cuisine, the kitchen uses exceptional ingredients (as we now know thanks to the Extraordinary Italian Taste experience), and the wine list is varied without being intimidating. I would recommend Cibo Yorkville for your next dinner with loved ones!