LA BELLA VITA
FOOD AND LIFESTYLE BLOG
Eat Well, Laugh Often, Love Much and Live Every Moment Italian Style
SERVING: Approx. 3 DOZEN PREP TIME: 25 MIN
COOK TIME: 8 – 9 MIN
2/3 Cup Unsweetened Apple Sauce
½ Cup Honey
1 Tbsp Vanilla
½ Cup Whole Wheat Flour
½ Cup Coconut Flour
½ tsp Baking powder
½ tsp Baking soda
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Cinnamon
1 ½ Cup Dry Oats
¾ Cup Dried Cranberries or Raisins
½ Cup Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chip
YIELD: APPROX 2 DOZEN PREP TIME: 10 MIN
REFRIGERATION TIME: MIN 1 – 2 HOURS
1 ¼ Cup Organic Natural Peanut Butter
¼ Cup Honey
1 Cup Dry Oatmeal
½ Cup Ground Flax Seeds
½ Wheat Germ or substitute Chocolate / Vanilla Protein Powder
½ Cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
½ Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Note: Depending on the moisture content of the peanut butter you may need to add an additional ¼ cup of dry oatmeal or 1 tbsp of peanut butter.
Orange Olive Oil Cake
SERVING: 10 – 12 PEOPLE PREP TIME: 20 MIN
COOK TIME: 1 HOUR
2 Small Seedless Oranges
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Cups All-purpose Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
Dash of Salt
4 Large Eggs
1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Small Orange sliced ½ inch thick
1 ½ Cups Water
½ Cup Granulated Sugar
SERVING: 4 – 6 PEOPLE PREP TIME: 10 MIN
COOK TIME: 1 HOUR
2 – 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Large Sweet Onion, Peeled and Finely Chopped
4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
2 Large Carrots Peeled a Finely Chopped
2 Stalks Celery, Finely Chopped
4 Cups Chicken Stock
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tsp Dried Oregano
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
6 Cups Cooked Chickpeas or 3 (14 Ounce) Cans
1 (14 ounce) Can Diced Tomatoes
SERVING: 4 – 6 PEOPLE PREP TIME: 10 MIN
COOK TIME: 1 HOUR
3 - 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 large head cauliflower cut into florets
4 large carrots peeled and sliced
1 large Macintosh apple diced
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
YIELD: 1 – 9 INCH SPRINGFORM CAKE PAN PREP TIME: 10 MIN
COOK TIME: 1 HOUR
½ Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Sugar
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
1 ½ Cups All purpose flour
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp Baking Soda
¼ tsp Salt
1 ½ Cups of Chopped Peached (approx. 3-4 peaches)
1 Peach Thinly Sliced
¼ Cup Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
I grew up in Vaughan and for as long as I can remember I always recalled seeing a small, unassuming restaurant at Islington and Hwy 7. For years I had told myself that I needed to go eat there. I figured that they must be doing something right to stay open for over 25 years. About a year ago, I was invited for lunch at this long-standing Woodbridge establishment and needless to say, it is now one of my favorite restaurants to frequent in Vaughan.
I consider myself a foodie. I am not stuck on a particular type of food or cuisine, however, I have been very picky over the years on freshness, quality, creativity and the service I receive during a visit to a restaurant. It is for these reasons that Cavallino Wine Bar has become of my favorite restaurants.
That being said, this was not always the case with this restaurant. It had become known as old school and uninspiring and with all the new and inventive restaurants popping up in the Vaughan area, Cavallino was slowly forgotten. This is not the case anymore. About 5 years ago, Cavallino gained new owners, a new chef and a new outlook on life. Today this small, rustic Italian restaurant is serving up a fresh and creative menu of authentic Italian cuisine.
Executive Chef Emiliano, is from Priverno, Lazio and comes with a wealth of culinary knowledge from his formal culinary training and his travels throughout Europe. He created a new classic menu, accompanied by a rotating seasonal menu; all inspired by his travels, experiences and of course his Nonna. For Chef Emiliano, his food is a canvas and he is the artist assembling them into a masterpiece of flavours and textures to tickle any palette. Chef Emiliano and his team pride themselves on making everything from scratch, including fresh pasta, bread, various spreads and desserts. Taste the difference of what it means to eat food that is fresh and homemade.
As I walked into this new eatery, I was taken a back with its vintage yet cool and modern look; it’s something you would expect to see on trendy Queen West, not in Woodbridge. The unassuming look from the outside did not prepare me for what I was about to see… I was hooked; between the large sleek bar, black and white colour scheme to the statement wall of artists both past and past, it was all riveting to look at. I was greeted immediately by a beautiful young woman who introduced herself as Natasha, one of the owners; now I was even more intrigued.
This family run business opened in January and took nearly a year to build. The whole space is custom, taking inspiration from the owners and their various ages that range from 30 – 60 years. What makes this space unique is the car material upholstered booths and of course the incredible feature wall of inspirational celebrities. This custom wall was created using thin strips of wallpaper placed back together to recreate these beautiful images ranging from Sophia Loren to Elvis to Jim Morrison.
I had the pleasure to sit down with owners Natasha and Filomena to discuss the inspiration for this eatery and these two lovely ladies welcomed me in like family, sharing with me their vision for the future. Right now this trendy and casual joint is the perfect mix of old school Italian café with a modern twist. The inviting atmosphere is great to enjoy with friends or with the whole family. Relax at the bar with an espresso or sit in one of their comfy booths for a freshly cooked, homestyle meal. This sounds great; right? Well, according to Natasha, Revel has much more to offer in the near future. They plan to offer a late-night Italian-style tapas menu with live music or a DJ, bringing the place to life. They want to create a fun and unique vibe, different than anything else in Vaughan. As of now, they are open Monday to Friday from 7am – 6pm but stay patient because these exciting additions are happening soon and I can’t wait to check out this local laidback lounge when this launches.
Not to worry, I am getting to the food; and how could I not talk about these delicious offerings. Everything is prepared fresh daily and everything is made from scratch including their desserts and biscotti. In an area where competition can be stiff, these owners know what is needed to stand apart. After hearing all their delectable meals and daily specials, I knew that I needed to try their veal cutlet with vegetables, rapini and potatoes. This dish did not disappoint. Tender and moist veal that was perfectly seasoned in a fresh tomato sauce; you can’t ask for more than that. I finished the meal with an espresso that they served with an almond biscotto; a great way to end lunch is with a smooth espresso with a nice foam and a crunchy cookie to appease my sweet tooth.
Between the trendy laidback atmosphere and the friendliness of the staff, I will definitely be returning soon to revel in everything they have to offer.
Revel Lounge and Espresso Bar
7694 Islington Ave
Monday to Saturday 7am – 6pm
Since starting my blog, I have been lucky enough to meet so many new and diverse people, both directly and indirectly involved in the Italian Canadian community. One of these people is the multi-talented Italian Comedian and Musician Enrico Rennella. I was intrigued by this funny man and I knew that I had to get the scoop on what makes his comedy stand apart from other Italian comedians. We met at a local café and I quickly learned that although he is an entertainer, that what you see, really is what you get. From his eccentric hairstyle, green stylish leather jacket and effervescent personality he expressed with the patrons and waitresses, to his story-telling, Neapolitan accent, and sense of humour, it all draws you right into his world.
With a Parisian mother and Neapolitan Father, Enrico is the perfect mix of Italian charm and romantic flare that jumps off the stage between his comedy and music routine. The stars must have been aligned for this funny man who was born on April 1st; no joke. He was born in Paris and at the age of 1 moved to Napoli where he grew up in a family of 7 siblings. It is no wonder he wanted to perform; in such a large family you have to do what you can to stand out. He began to realize his comedic appeal at the age of 6, performing in front of his family and by his teens this young entertainer began performing throughout Napoli. With a lack of opportunity, Enrico decided to pursue another passion; food. He became a chef and in his 20’s moved back to Paris to open a Neapolitan restaurant called Café Italia. Even with a successful restaurant, that inner passion to perform never left and the game changer for him was watching his idol on TV, Neapolitan singer Gigi D’Alessio, perform at Radio City Music Hall in New York City in 2011. It was then and there that he decided to pursue his dream; “if he could do it, so could I.”
So, who influenced this funny man? Well, according to Enrico, no one. Although he enjoys the comedy of Fiorello, Enrico prides himself on being his authentic self on stage and not like anyone else; “I want to be like me”. That is why he integrates his second love, music, into his performances; “I use music to make my comedy better”. After years of incorporating other people’s songs, he decided to pursue another desire and he has started creating his own music. But with a successful comedy career, why branch off? Well, for Enrico that is simple; music is passion “you can say something in music that you can’t say when you speak”. Enrico is now working with a well-known Neapolitan producer and is in the process of recording his first solo album with an expected release date in June 2018.
Today Enrico resides in Toronto, performing throughout Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. Interested in checking out his comedy? I hope so, because his next Canadian performance is a charity show on March 16 at the City Playhouse Theatre in Thornhill. Partial proceeds from this event go to Shining Through Center in support of Smiles for Autism.
What’s next for this already accomplished performer? With a new album and the successful show, I’m Not Just an Italian, wrapping up, we are all excited to see what Enrico has in store for us. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak at his new show, The Italian Shades of Grey, opening in December 2018. This show will definitely be a change from his previous ones. His goal this time is to stretch the envelope and add some shock value to his comedy. A darker performance that is not to be missed! This big personality is also working on several other projects; so, don’t be surprised to see this multi-talented performer on the small screen too.
Enrico’s comedic charisma and passion for life is infectious. It is not often that you meet such a genuine person. So maybe the stars were aligned for me too; getting to interview such an amazing talent, fellow foodie and singer and having him share his story was such a pleasure and an inspiration to never give up on your dreams.
Tickets for any of Enrico Rennella’s shows can be purchased at:
On November 9th, I attended a Caritas School of Life charity event for addiction and mental health at Cavallino Wine Bar host by the 9-year-old Matthew Newman and his 12-year-old co-host Sofia Esposito. It was a packed event filled with attendees that showed nothing but love and support for this local cause. The event welcomed some inspirational speakers from the program and also the legendary Toronto Maple Leaf goalie, Mike Palmateer who was available for pictures and autographs in support of Caritas.
After the event, I had the opportunity to talk to Matthew about his involvement in this charity. His parents are strong believers in giving back and after discussing and researching several options, Matthew decided on a smaller more unknown organization that really needed attention. He was able to fully commit to his decision after meeting a 13-year-old boy by the name of Nick who suffered from a drug addiction and was in the process of successfully completing the program at Caritas. Meeting a young boy with such a serious addiction was an eye opener for Matthew who decided that he wanted to bring light to other youths that addiction can happen to anyone at any age. Matthew gets involved in Caritas through an annual CHIN Telethon, Gala and started his own event that is now in its second year. This year’s event raised a whopping $7,100 and he hopes to continue to grow this number to $10,000 next year. It was encouraging to see many young people in attendance, and I think that it is important to be open an honest with our children about addiction and mental health and take away the stigma associated with it. Matthew’s goal is to continue to spread awareness of Caritas through classroom reach-out initiatives and through a social media campaign that he will be launching.
Thank you, Matthew and Sofia, for your commitment and support in this important initiative that is, Caritas School of Life.
To learn more about Caritas or to donate, please visit their website at http://caritas.ca