Flashes from camera phones go off and notes are scribbled down as chef Basilio Pesce (pictured above, inspecting a spicy citrus salad) sets a plate of charred octopus on the bar. The cooks of Pesce’s upcoming Parkdale restaurant Porzia (1314 Queen St. W., at Dufferin) gather around the dish, noting the placement of the garnish and the smokey, delicate flavor of the tentacle, so they can replicate it for the friends and family preview dinners this weekend. A plate of sweetbreads and snails then lands on the table. Pesce looks at his creation with a furrowed brow and decides it needs improving. It won’t be on the menu for now.
Having spent six years as chef at Biff’s Bistro, two-and-a-half at Canoe, and another five working under chef Mark McEwan, Pesce is setting high standards for his first solo venture. The opening date has already been pushed 16 weeks past the original goal (“One construction delay turns into another delay, which turns into another,” he says), but with plates coming out of the kitchen and seating charts completed, the light is in sight.
“We’ll be doing Italian food and working off a small menu, 12 to 14 items,” he explains, while cutting a giant pan of fluffy brioche, enriched with potatoes, mortadella, prosciutto, Swiss, parmesan, and mozzarella. “We’ll change it daily and, being new, we’ll have to see what our staples will be. The beauty is that if we don’t like it, we can change it the next day.”
Porzia—which is named after the chef’s mom—is slated to open Jan. 24 for dinner starting at 6 p.m. It will be open Thursday through Monday and reservations are accepted.—Karon Liu