Toronto’s Best New Restaurants: La Palma

Toronto’s Best New Restaurants: La Palma

La Palma

The restaurant’s sign, a squiggle of blue neon, tells you exactly what you’ll find inside: a breezy, all-white room with pots of aloe vera, a mural possibly cribbed from a Björk dream, and tables of millennial couples with statement eyewear and facial hair. It’s only saved from painfully overwrought trendiness by the menu, which is grounded in honest Cal-Ital cooking.

A beluga lentil and roasted chickpea salad.

Chef Craig Harding and his co-owner and wife, interior designer ­Alexandra Hutchison, also run the neighbouring family-style Italian restaurant Campagnolo. At La Palma, the food is lighter, more vibrant and aggressively seasonal, like a salad of late-­summer corn and lentils with Ontario goat cheese and chickpeas; deep-fried, ricotta-stuffed zucchini blossoms; flatbread-like pizzas strewn with treviso, taleggio and figs; and even seasonal drinks, like a limited-run ale from downtown brewer Burdock that had been aged for a year with cab franc grape skins.

Hutchinson and Harding.

There are heartier options, too, like thin Miami ribs coated with a sugary coffee rub, and a “100 layer” lasagna built with noodles, béchamel, a hefty bolognese, and deliciously bubbling and charred mozzarella.

A hearty brick of “100 layer” lasagna.
A pizza topped with fig, taleggio, bitter treviso and honey.

Reservations book up weeks ahead—it’s so popular, the restaurant uses two reservations systems, one for planned bookings and another, Dinr, for tables that become available same-day. It makes me long for the days, not that long ago, when the only option was to call to make a reservation with a real person. One saving grace: there’s a takeout counter where you can order most of the menu, plus an array of pastries, like jam-filled bombolone. You won’t be able to sit beside the spacey mural during your dinner, but that’s not a total loss.

849 Dundas St. W., 416-368-4567, lapalma.ca

Don’t skip the bombolone.