Just less than a month old when I visited, La Palma restaurant at 849 Dundas Street in the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood, is a happening, bright and vibrant space. Chef Craig Harding and his wife Alexandra Hutchison, the creative director have their first successful space, Campagnolo, across the road. After a trip to Venice Beach, California, where they got inspired, they decided to open a second spot in the former home of Caffe Brasiliano.
The menu is Italian at heart with a California sensibility. There are a lot more healthier options here, with nine vegetable choices, as well as crostini, pasta, fish, meat and wood-fired oven pizzas.
I prefer the atmosphere at this restaurant. Of course it is too cool to have a name outside, but you can’t miss it, just follow the crowds. It is white washed on the outside with two large garage doors that they open in nice weather. The place is bright, white, with a laid back, young atmosphere. The walls are painted with a cool abstract design, the floors are epoxy coated, the open kitchen is framed in copper, with blue stools where you can pull up and watch the action. The dining room holds about 57 beautiful leather chairs. Eventually they will have a rooftop patio, increasing the “cool” vibe even more. There is a take out counter where you can take out pastries that are baked in house, as well as salads and other goods, for picnickers and busy people.
They have an excellent spritz and sexy cocktail list. I had a Venetian spritz, made with my choice of liqueur from mild to strong. I went with the aperol, soda and prosecco for $10. It was one of the best I have had. Their signature La Palma drink was a tart combination of Aperol, Montenegro, egg white, orange, lime and bitters, and was another hit.
The 100 layer bolognese lasagne had nice crispy layers, but was on the lighter side, made with a béchamel sauce and not as much cheese as I would like. The sweet pea agnolotti in an arugula pesto and stracchino cheese was cooked al dente and really a small portion. I would consider this an appetizer for one, although our waiter Giancarlo suggested sharing our dishes. In fact, most of the portions were on the small side, including the mains. You can mix and match your veggie and proteins. The octopus with romesco sauce and marcona almonds was nicely charred on the grill.
The wait staff wear striped uniforms that reminds me of Venice, although the food is not Venetian. The service and pacing is sound for a new place. It’s a new fun restaurant, with respectable food, but I thought nothing was exceptional. I would still go back, as I value the space, concept and the vibe.