Where Frilu chef John-Vincent Troiano gets takeout ravioli, yakitori and bento boxes

Where Frilu chef John-Vincent Troiano gets takeout ravioli, yakitori and bento boxes

We’re asking Toronto chefs and restaurateurs which takeout dishes have been getting them through the pandemic

Troiano picks up his takeout bento boxes from Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto at the Japanese Cultural Center in North York Photo courtesy of John-Vincent Troiano

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Chef John-Vincent Troiano of Thornhill’s tasting-menu restaurant Frilu says that, despite everything the pandemic has thrown at people in the restaurant industry, the experience has not been without a silver lining. “In the culinary community, there has been a real sense of camaraderie between chefs, an appreciation for what everyone else is doing. We know that working together and supporting each other can only make each of us better.” He also adds that if anything, the pandemic has made Torontonians prioritize support for local businesses even more. “I would love to see that support continue once we’re through this pandemic.”

Over the last year, Troiano has been cultivating an appreciation for the finer, often overlooked, aspects of his personal life. “I learned to be grateful for the simple things—like for my wife Sandra and I to be able to eat together at home. We also enjoyed gardening together in our small backyard. The pandemic has made us realize that we want to live a slower and more tranquil pace of life.”

Whatever else the pandemic throws at him, Troiano and his team are ready to roll with the punches. “At various points during the pandemic, we switched to offering a la carte menu items and then reverted back to a tasting menu with only 10 guests per night. Now that we’re in lockdown again, we’re offering our tasting menu dishes on our takeout menu. Never would I have thought we would be changing concepts this many times in a year. It’s like a culinary bootcamp.”

Farina Plus

2563 Major MacKenzie Dr. W., Unit 9B, Maple, 905-553-6500, farinaplus.com

“My good friend owns Farina Plus, a fresh pasta shop. He actually supplies all the fresh pasta for our dishes as Frilu. Like my restaurant, Farina Plus focuses on seasonality and locality which is all about eating what is in season and supporting our local farms and markets.”


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Go-to item 1: Fresh pasta dishes
Tasting notes: “In December and January they offer a decadent baccala (salt cod) ravioli. I love all their pastas, though. Another one of my favourites is the squash agnolotti that they offer in the fall. The flavours bring back childhood memories, particularly those of my grandmother.”


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Go-to item 2: Artisan pantry staples
Tasting notes: The storefront sells a variety of beautifully imported specialty rice, olive oil and balsamic vinegars, but also a bunch of locally made and in-house products. A few of my favourites include Pruneti Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Tuscany, and Mandranova Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Sicily.”

Ju Izakaya

3160 Steeles Ave. E., Markham, 905-474-1058, izakayaju.com

“We love going to this J-Town restaurant. Ever since lockdown, we try to get takeout as much as possible, but I miss dining in and just letting loose on a Sunday afternoon. Along with a visit here, our pre-pandemic plans would have included spending a couple hours in Uxbridge with friends shooting clays.”


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Go-to item 1: Charcoal-grilled meats
Tasting notes: “They’re so simple yet so flavourful. We usually get the yakitori combo which includes a chef’s selection of different cuts of pork and chicken. I love the chicken tsukune, which is a seasoned chicken meatball grilled and glazed with a sweet-salty teriyaki sauce. Another favourite is the smoky grilled okra, with that typical slimy texture inside, which we love. Not to mention, it’s super healthy so it makes us feel less guilty about indulging in other dishes like the nankotsu.”

Go-to item 2: Nankotsu karaage (deep-fried cartilage)
Tasting notes: “We get this dish to share. It’s incredible especially when enjoyed hot out of the fryer, crispy on the outside and and chewy-crunchy inside.”

Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto at the Japanese Cultural Center

6 Garamond Ct., North York, 416-444-7100, kaiseki.ca

“Celebratory meal choices are limited right now given that we can’t dine out. After trying to cook at home as much as possible, we indulge in dishes from Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto for special occasions.”


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Go-to item 1: Bento boxes
Tasting notes: “We recently ordered Kaiseki’s bentos for my wife’s birthday. What I love about Hashimoto is that even with our takeout meal, it still felt like an experience. The individual dishes are indulgent in itself, but the care that goes into each package is what makes it a truly special meal. One dish that stood out for the both of us was the Yawata Maki, which is chicken wrapped around burdock root and grilled. We also ordered the traditional New Year’s Eve box. In Japan on New Year’s Eve, families typically pick up similar bento boxes to enjoy throughout the day. The idea is to relax and spend quality time together over good food without the stress of having to cook. The level of detail doesn’t stop at the food—it’s also about the spirit of selfless hospitality and the traditions wrapped up in beautifully crafted boxes.”