Dova is Toronto’s newest restaurant, located at 229 Carlton Street in Cabbagetown, near Carlton and Parliment St. This was a huge leap of faith for Chef Rob Marotta and his wife Jacqueline Nicosia. After all, it was almost the end of August, and we are smack dab in the middle of a pandemic. Restaurants are just starting to slowly open indoor dining, as we approach a possible second wave of COVID-19.
Some of you may be very familiar with chef Marotta from his other established restaurant Ardo. Ardo was named for his son, who couldn’t pronounce his name Leonardo. Dova is a linguistic blend of words for Don Vale, after the 19th century village that became the modern day Cabbagetown.
The food here is similar to Ardo. They serve delicious artisanal pastas, woodfire pizzas, fresh caught fish and ethically sourced meats. The food is reflective of the chef’s family Sicilian heritage. The chef has a deep connection to Sicilian and Mediterranean food, thanks to the influence of his mother’s cooking.
The space is a complete redo, and very attractive. There is a beautiful blond wooden bar with Corian like countertop and grey/beige bar stools. The dining room, which seats 46 people including the bar, has burnt orange leatherette chairs, with white tables. There are displays of Italian products for sale throughout the store, which are part of their company called Vivi, named after their daughter Vivienne. This company imports the finest ingredients from Sicily’s shores to Canada. I particularly love their spicy olive oil.
Outside is a hidden patio, a real urban oasis, with twinkle lights, lots of greenery, and beautiful taupe umbrellas and patio furniture from Jardin de Ville (Jardnico). In non-Covid times the patio seats around 40. There is also a private room, complete with bar downstairs, which will be great for celebrating private events. We felt very safe and comfortable from the moment we entered. They are taking Covid very seriously. We had to clean our hands upon entering. After we were seated, we were asked our comfort level, as far as wanting to pour our own wine and water, or not. There was a QR code for the menu. I noticed that they thoroughly cleaned the seats and tables as soon as people departed.
The menu offered many delicious selections. The scallop crudo and the beef carpaccio were great choices. We also enjoyed the fried zucchini and calamari. I would have preferred more meat in our pasta’s ragu sauce. They also executed a very lovely pizza with a notably good crust. There were a few desserts on offer, and we went with some sorbets to end our meal. The standout was a refreshing lemon sorbet topped with candied lemon peel and cubes of Campari jello.
They made a great Negroni, but don’t overlook the interesting craft cocktails coming from the bar. The wine list, although predominantly Italian, also had selections from France and California as well. They have trained their staff to be particularly warm and friendly, and personal, and it really makes for an enjoyable evening out.
Dova is a welcome addition to the Toronto restaurant scene.