Having cooked it and eaten it on several occasions, I…
Across the street is a multi-storey building scheduled to be built; a few doors down will be the new LCBO store, which will knock out several tattered and dog-eared shops and transform the block significantly: La Cucina has set up in the vacated restaurant space beside Dallas in Kitchener’s west end. A sister restaurant to La Cucina in downtown Guelph, the Kitchener restaurant is scaled down and casual serving house-made pasta, pizza and other Italian dishes.
Simple, basic Italian food is what the owners and chefs say will be cooking. Chef Gianni Poggio has cooked in Italian restaurants for decades and has been in Canada for about 17 years. He’s joined by chef Emiliano Fabbrizi, who says “pizza needs love.”
“There are many secrets and many ways to work with the dough,” says Fabbrizi, who came from north of Rome only a few years ago (and where he also attended culinary school). Before arriving here, he worked with Via Mercanti, the small Toronto chain of pizzerias which first opened in Kensington Market. “You need a good rising,” adds Fabbrizi. “Forty-eight hours is the best way. We want to offer the best product to customers.”
The flour for the dough is Antico Caputo Molino tipo “00” flour brought in from Naples — where pizza is an art. The domed Malagutti oven with a rotating deck is gas-fired and augmented by white oak that burns along the side. With heat approaching 800-degrees Fahrenheit, a pizza cooks in less than two minutes. It’s Neapolitan-style that requires the libretto fold. For fun, Fabbrizi stuffed the crust of a Margherita pizza — tomato sauce, cheese and basil — with a bit of sopressata.
The cooking at the La Cucina strives for what Italian always does best: simple, straightforward, traditional. There are about a half-dozen pastas made in-house as well as potato gnocchi and lasagna. There’s a daily soup, arancini and crocchette di patate, panini and calzone, as well as mussels, calamari, a cheese board and burrata. There are 10 pasta dishes ($14-$19); secondi include veal parm and lamb ($26).
“There are seafood dishes, meat dishes and vegetarian and vegan dishes,” Poggio says. They bring in big wheels of Parmigiano and a range of salumi.
The vast majority of the wines, nine of the 11 reds, are Italian — and, happily, there is a wine preservation and serving system, so you can sample many styles or sip by the glass. The restaurant, which seats about 70 with tables, a few booths and bar seating, offers half-price wine specials. There are a few local craft beers available, but the Italian Moretti rules the roost here — a Moretti and a pizza is $15 between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. daily. Floor to ceiling garage-style doors will open onto a sidewalk “deck” in good weather.
A cooler near the pizza oven holds hanging pasta and a few legs of prosciutto and wild boar, for which there is a pretty funky-cool Ferrari-red flywheel retro slicer that captures a bit of the past. It all makes for a nice addition to the west end dining scene.
La Cucina is at 320 King Street West, Kitchener, N2G 1B7. It is open daily.