Dinner and a flick can’t get much better than at the Paradise Cinema, which has been restored to its snazzy, 1930s art moderne glory and upgraded with plush theatre seats, two bars and, reached by the side street, this Basilio Pesce restaurant. He was the secret weapon in the kitchens at Porzia, Canoe and, most recently, Ossington’s francophile playground La Banane. Now he’s turned his attention to the unapologetically heat- and garlic-laced pasta and seafood of southern Italy. If you need one last hurrah before cutting out carbs, make it his pasta with crab. It’s “A.O.P.,” a term you don’t encounter much outside of Sicily, meaning there’s no sauce aside from a good amount of olive oil, garlic mince and chili, plus a sprinkle of parsley. No better way to show off his springy, eggy, hand-cut tagliarini and the fluffy delicacy of Fogo Island snow crab. There are light snacks like crispy arancini stuffed with cuttlefish, or a selection of premium cheeses (he’s got connections, having once served as executive chef of the Cheese Boutique), sharable plates of peppery boar sausage stained mahogany after baking in chianti, root veg so paper-thin you barely notice they’ve been breaded in cornmeal and deep-fried, and always a porterhouse seasoned with salt and rosemary, like they do in Florence. Pesce also had the fine idea to hire Jill Barber, who created many of the extraordinary sweet things at Blackbird Bakery, as exec pastry chef (a rare position in restaurants these days). I’ll be stopping in just for my favourite dessert of the year, a stack of speculoos and honey-flavoured mousse, finished with a half moon of Marcona almond butter and slices of just-ripe fig. It’s so sophisticated, you’d never guess it’s a play on an Instagram-fashionable topping combo for a humble breakfast toast. But, like in the movies, sometimes eating out should be larger than life.
Osteria Rialto, 1006 Bloor St. W., osteriarialto.com