I have been an ardent fan of chef Rob Bragagnolo for many years, so I was so delighted to hear he was opening a new, small, intimate restaurant called Casa Paco on 50c Clinton Street, in Toronto. I recently had the pleasure of dining in this charming spot in Little Italy. It was the former home of many restaurants including Arcadia by Patrick Kriss and I believe the latest owner was a place called, Boonsik.
From the moment we stepped into this 28-seat space, we were warmly greeted by Alva McMahon, one of the 4 co-owners, into a warm and cozy atmosphere that made us feel right at home. There are two distinct rooms, the bar to the right where you can sit at a high top or directly at the bar. You can see some of the action from the kitchen with these seats or the room to the left is the dining room. The floors and tables are wood and the room is warmed up with greenery, family photos, and personal knick naks. The team did all of the renovations themselves. Casa Paco is dimly lit and the front window lets in lots of natural light, and the room is painted with forest green accents. The music soundtrack is well chosen and the decibel level was not too loud and allowed for conversation. The restaurant had been open two-months as I wrote this review. As I pursued the menu, I was very pleased to see several options that I wanted to try. We ordered a refreshing and delicious cocktail called a Casa Gn’T made with Mediterranean gin, sage, and grapefruit by the bartender and co-owner Conrad. At $12, it was a relative bargain considering today’s prices.
The food specializes in Spanish cuisine with some Italian influences. Chef Brad is Italian but lived a number of years in Spain. He is joined in the kitchen by Chef Chiney. Apparently, all four worked together at their previous restaurant Labora.
It was difficult to decide on all the great sounding choices, but we ultimately chose to start with the baked fresh daily tomato bread, olives and a plate of Iberico ham. We enjoyed the green asparagus and grilled polenta with heirloom radicchio and piave cheese. We each had a freshly shucked Mahone Bay scallop, grilled on charcoal and served with saffron butter, which we devoured. The lobster pasticcio was a Venetian layered crepe lasagna in lobster bechamel and was rich and decadent. We also chose some lovely lamb chops and a side of grilled artichokes with summer truffles. Everything was perfectly cooked and seasoned. You can expect a seasonally updated menu. The restaurant is only open from Thursday to Sunday. Sunday is a paella day with the addition of some items from their regular menu. Monday’s and Tuesday’s are used for prep and menu adjustments. Dessert had a few options and we chose the excellent lemon brûléed flan.
I was impressed that dinner was perfectly timed, and we were served one preparation at a time so we could enjoy all the flavour sensations. They exchanged plates and silverware often.
The bar had some interesting cocktails, made with homemade infusions, and there were some non-alcoholic appetitivo. The wines focus on European labels from Spain, Portugal, and Italy, and there was an extensive Amaro selection.
All in all, our meal was an absolute delight that exceeded our expectations, the service was thoughtful and I felt that Casa Paco was a labour of love and a most satisfying meal. We can’t wait to return and explore more menu offerings.