“For generations, Chef Roberto Marotta’s family lived in Milazzo, a port town on the northeast coast of Sicily that looks out to the Aeolian islands, a jewelled necklace in the blue Tyrrhenian Sea.
Roberto’s love of food was passed down to him here - a gift as much of place as of family.” - Scott Thornley
Chef Marotta moved to Toronto ten years ago and now shares his love of Sicilian cuisine with the greater Toronto community with Ardo, his restaurant located on King Street. The restaurant decor is simple and tasteful, with photos arranged in a cozy nook within, a dining bar area where customers can interact with the staff, and an open kitchen area where one can smell the delicious aromas of the food being prepared.
While you will find traditional Sicilian dishes on Ardo’s menu, Chef Marotta has adapted the dishes for the Canadian taste with fresh Canadian ingredients, combined with local ingredients he imports from Sicily to maintain the traditional flavour profile. It was important to him that the restaurant presents an authentic Sicilian experience, and only ingredients from the source can do that.
Stemming from this dedication to Sicilian cuisine, he began his import business, named after his daughter Vivi, “Vivi Imports”, to import Sicilian ingredients that other chefs or aspiring chefs now have access to. The Ardo pantry offers various imported Sicilian ingredients online, including an exquisite chocolate with a unique crunchy texture that will make you do a double take. Shop the Ardo pantry here.
Armed with the right ingredients, Chef Marotta builds his menu to try to stay organic and natural. Bread is made in-house from scratch each day; their pasta and bread use a special high quality organic flour from Sicily.
We were lucky to experience a few of Chef Marotta’s creations, including the adventurous Sarde Pasta (sardine pasta), which Marotta describes its innovative combination of ingredients as “looking through the kaleidoscope”. Traditional dishes usually use three to four ingredients, but this Sarde Pasta combines interesting flavours such as raisins and pine nuts for a brand new taste. You will also fall in love with the perfect texture of the pasta - you can literally taste the freshness of every component of the dish.
That brings us to the restaurant’s other notable feature, fresh wild-caught fish available on the menu at market price. Those who love seafood and are not afraid of a little bone will rejoice in the natural flavours of this option.
After enjoying our savoury highlights, we were treated to Sicilian desserts both traditional and new.
The cannoli is a traditional Sicilian cannoli with sweet fresh ricotta, candied orange, chocolate and roasted pistachios. A tasty dessert always considers not only the taste profile but also the texture profile, and this one scores well on both. Simply done yet a delightful note on which to end a meal.
Chef Marotta’s take on the cassata, with Sicilian pistachio gelato, ricotta mousse, candied orange skin, compressed honeydew, chocolate and vincotto with Sicilian almonds sprinkled on top, will put a spring in your step. It’s refreshing flavours, moderated perfectly in the size of the ingredients, will urge you to challenge yourself to consume a second portion.
If you are searching for authentic Sicilian cuisine, you will find what you are looking for at Ardo, along with all of its imported ingredients that you can bring home for a taste of Sicily in your own kitchen. We highly recommend trying the Sarde Pasta for a unique taste that will bring you back for more. Stop by Ardo for a taste of Sicily the next time you are in Toronto!
243 King St E, Toronto