Alida Solomon, is one of the small (but growing) group of women chef-owners in Canada. Since its opening in 2002, Tutti Matti, her downtown Toronto restaurant devoted to authentic Tuscan cuisine, has been lauded by critics and received both local and international awards, including the prestigious 2009 Leccio D’Oro for Osteria of the Year (an award previously won by Alain Ducasse). Long a passionate advocate for Italian cuisine and a go-to resource for regional ingredients and products, Chef Alida met with Pietro Goglia at RC Show 2023 to talk about the investment Italy is making in the Canadian foodservice market and how chefs and operators can benefit from the distinctive reputation and quality of Italian ingredients, foods and technology.
Pietro Goglia: As Italians, we have always placed the highest value on authentic, natural foods. As a top Canadian chef, why have you placed Italian flavours and ingredients at the heart of your cuisine?
Alida Solomon: Using an authentic, quality product—whether it’s wine, cheese, flour or oil—makes a massive difference to a dish, and a little bit goes a long way. Better quality, natural products typically last longer. For example, when you make a pizza dough using a natural flour, you don’t have to use leavening like yeast because when you age or cure the dough, it creates its own sugar and the dough lasts in the fridge up to five days. Not to mention that it looks gorgeous, because the flour is totally different.
Pietro Goglia: Geography is the unmatched characteristic of our outstanding extra virgin olive oil production—part of what makes our products extraordinary is our terroir and our location by the Mediterranean Sea. On the island of Sicily, they’ve grown olives for thousands of years in an ideal natural climate with hot days, cool evenings and coastal breezes. Everybody uses olive oil, yet few fully understand and appreciate it.
Alida Solomon: We have a very North American perception of the consumption of olive oil. At my restaurant, we have 18 different olive oils in circulation—I’m the chef who spends more money on olive oil than anything else. People ask for bread, and restaurants just automatically provide the olive oil. They shouldn’t. Olive oil is very expensive, and it changes every year with the growing season. This year, Tuscany lost 60 per cent of its production—it was the longest drought in documented history.
We always use extra virgin olive oil, first press. It’s expensive and it’s precious. I want people who walk through the door of Tutti Matti to feel like they’re actually in Tuscany. You eat by my rules because you came to me to eat something authentic. The care it takes to produce quality olive oil is way more than people think. When you put fresh olive oil in your mouth, it’s a physical experience beginning in your mouth and travelling to the back of your head. Olive oil is like wine. It’s an investment in your physical person and in flavour. I believe it’s our responsibility in the restaurant industry to teach people about appreciation and
Pietro Goglia: Italy is constantly innovating in food technology, with companies using Italian engineering to perfect frozen food production and cold food storage processes that lock in the authentic flavours and freshness. How can Canadian restaurants use these innovations to save money and enhance their menus with Italian products?
Alida Solomon: Many pre-prepared or frozen Italian-made foods can be used ready-made for quick
service restaurants or as a beautiful base, like for a pizza bianca or sourdough. These new Italian brands we now have access to in Canada are really great.
Pietro Goglia: You are very well respected regionally for your cuisine and your ability to pair food and wine. How did you learn so quickly?
Alida Solomon: As a chef, wine and food are equally important. You can’t separate them—wine lists and menus are meant to be written together, but in North America, we’ve separated them. As a very young chef in Montalcino, I had the pleasure of learning about incredible Montepulciano wines. You need to connect with where the food came from and get inspiration from that region’s tastes and flavours
If you want to offer the extraordinary, authentic Italian ingredients matter.
Italian products are known for their quality and variety. Each region has specific, sought-after foods from 400 types of cheese, endless varieties of renowned wines and the best olive oil in the world. The Italian Trade Agency invites you to explore just a few of the Made in Italy companies and products available to Canadian foodservice featured in its Pavilion at RC Show 2023.
Antiche Cascine Spa was born over 20 years ago to produce frozen gastronomic specialties, with a focus on Mediterranean finger and street foods. Their modern plant is located in Raviscanina, on the edge of the beautiful Matese Regional Park in the province of Caserta. Resolutely focused on food quality, the company collaborates closely with university and research departments and develops proprietary technologies, patents and prototypes to support the ongoing product innovation and eco-sustainable operations they are known for and committed to.
Learn more at: www.antichecascine.it
The true expression of a forty-year passion for excellence in fish farming, Giaveri Rodolfo Caviar Giaveri is synonymous with extra fine caviar. Just as the quality of champagne begins in the vineyard, so the wellbeing of sturgeons determines the quality of their caviar, an authentic and genuine part of the Italian gastronomic culture. Years of attention and dedication maintain the equilibrium of the species on their own protected, controlled and sustainable fish farms where they live and mature almost as they would in the wild.
Learn more at: www.caviargiaveri.com
The Frantoi Cutrera olive mills are located in Chiaramonte Gulfi, a small town in south-eastern Sicily. Cutrera olive oil is made from high-quality Sicilian olives and is considered one of the best extra virgin oils in the world. Here the olive trees have thrived for thousands of years in their natural habitat with olive cultivation, harvesting and processing techniques rooted in the history of the island. The most famous of all is the EVOO Primo, which in Italian means “first”, and is exported to more than 30 countries worldwide in bottles or cans.
Learn more at: www.frantoi.org
FTD SRL is an Italian leader in storing and distributing quality refrigerated and frozen food products from ice cream to baked goods and artisanal pasta. Their modern engineering is complemented by Italian creativity to deliver reliable, low-power cold services to customers in over 28 countries.
Learn more at: www.ftdsrl.it
Podere Casanova’s fine Tuscan wines are a result of the ideal terroir and pedoclimatic environment that characterize their vineyard and favour the formation of polyphenols and anthocyanins on grapes. Their winemaking process balances heritage traditions and sustainable management practices, which has built their global reputation for quality.
Learn more at: www.poderecasanovavini.com
Located in Arce, Frosinone, Polselli has grown from a small, artisan flour mill to lead the Italian quality milling sector. Their fine flour is the perfect expression of nurturing a sterling production chain, a process with ancient roots that is constantly developing through meticulous research and innovation.
Learn more at: www.polselli.it
The Italian Trade Agency invites you to engage directly with these top Italian brands available to Canadian foodservice or to contact them directly to facilitate direct connections with high-quality Italian farmers, producers and makers.
For more Made in Italy food products, please visit: italianmade.com
To source and connect with Italian producers and brands, please contact the Italian Trade Agency: firstname.lastname@example.org