28
May
10

The Big Reveal

 

 

PAESE’S NEW RISTORANTE ON KING ST. W. 

“INSPIRED IN ITALY – MADE IN CANADA”  

TORONTO- May 10th,  2010  – Tony Loschiavo, veteran restaurateur, chef and caterer, has opened his second location of Paese Ristorante at 333 King Street West, twenty-one years after his Bathurst Street location opened. With Executive Chef Christopher Palik on board, Loschiavo looks forward to making Paese on King, a neighbourhood favourite, promising to deliver Italian inspired food, hand crafted and house made, in a rustic elegant setting while staying true to his food philosophy, “ Inspired in Italy, Made in Canada”.  

Open daily from 11 am til midnight, Paese on King’s patrons will enjoy Palik’s unique late night menu of Italian bar snacks including potato gnocchi poutine, mini calzones, and brio-espresso ribs, as well as classic Paese signature mains. Their wine policy, unique in the restaurant industry, is dedicated to making wine more accessible; all wines are charged at cost plus $25, and there is no corkage fee on the 1st bottle, except on Saturday ($25).  

Palik, Executive Chef at Paese Ristorante and the catering division, L’EAT Catering, has been involved in every aspect of the creation of Paese on King. In fact, Palik writes a detailed description of the birth of this new location from its conception through construction, on his blog,“ It’s comforting to know that if you want to go to a restaurant where every single square inch has been thought about, measured, changed, redesigned and redesigned again, all for your pleasure, than this is the place ”.  

This ninety-seat modern Italian eatery boasts walnut butcher-block tables and bar as well as exposed reclaimed brick walls. Palik has been instrumental in cultivating a small organic farm with Loschiavo in order to provide some of the fresh ingredients for Paese’s seasonal menu. Some of the 300 plants include 12 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, squash, lettuces and herbs.  

Local farming is not new to Loschiavo. Loschiavo moved to Canada in 1965, from Southern Italy when he was only 3 years-old. Loschiavo’s mother, Nazzarena, brought with her tomato seeds and dried beans for a garden that she would plant in her new country. “Inspired in Italy, Made in Canada” is the way Loschiavo describes his thought process when it comes to the food he serves at Paese, ”We understand our influences and our roots but we also understand that we live in Canada. Our menu has a place for both of these influences “.  

Media Contact: Deirdre Anderson, Director of Catering and Marketing for the L-EAT GROUP, L-eat Catering, L-eat Express and Paese Restaurants  P 416.631.9226 ext 228   C 416.576.0040  deirdre@leatcatering.com   www.paeseristorante.com www.paesekingstreet.wordpress 

Open for business!

And in 9 short months we went from this........

To this............

We will be hard to miss on this block with our massive custom-built bright orange front door.

 

Organizing and cleaning the kitchen, day one.

Even once the kitchen was built there was still more cleaning to do before we could cook.

Boxes of new kitchen swag. Chris, loving it.....

Christmas for chefs would look something like this.....

something like getting to unpack.......

Thousands of dollars of brand spanking new kitchen equipment!!!!

The first produce showing up.

The first orders of meat and cheese.

Even though I had worked up and tried all the recipes at Bathurst street the recipes still had be tried again for my staff to learn.

Rolling gnocchi.

Rolling more gnocchi.

Our first staff lunch, next door at a great spot called Z-Teca. Thanks Marco for feeding everyone who worked on Paese and who still works at Paese!

The dining room staff, setting the room for the first time.

I had to a admit seeing it all come together was a bit strange. You picture it in your mind for months but nothing can really prepare you for seeing it complete for the first time.

Niki setting up the bar. A very, very important job. Experienced professionals only!

Oh yeah!

Opening day and the first chance for the front and the back of the house to meet was.....

at a family meal in the dining room.......

and made by these guys.

Set up complete and ready to open up the doors and invite in our first customers.

 

 

Lighting the space was key to its ambiance

Probably the most expensive bar lights we could find.

And how to fill all this?

Bruce and Dipendra, Paese's master sommelier and sommelier holding a reciepts from the LCBO for $14,000, bought on opening day.

A night-time setting showing off the design features we wanted people to see. The warmth of the brick and walnut, the lighting and the clean uncluttered lines of the dining room.

Two large booths at the front overlooking the bar and patio. Prime real estate.

Looking down the bar.

The first menus being printed...

and the first dish being cooked.

And how would I describe the food that we serve at Paese, Well I love that we do things like this everyday. Roast Chickens,

Make the pastas and the gnocchi everyday to get.......

Ricotta gnocchi with roasted chicken, sweet peas and mascarpone cream sauce.

Stretch every pizza dough by hand......

To get funghi pizza with truffle and fontina.

We make all of our own desserts, like vanilla panna cotta with poached peaches from last summer and rosemary biscotti.

Dry age our own steaks, grilled rib eye with red wine lentils and bone marrow.

And brine and roast porchetta everyday. Just a small example of how we try to cook the simplest of foods.

 We are finally open and I am relieved, exhausted, excited and inspired. Its funny, so many people have helped us get to where we are right now, and even though Deirdre, Tony and myself have been so personaly involved for what feels like so long, its a different feeling to know that we have now put it all in the hands of our staff and our customers. 

Diprenda, Cynthia, Andrew, Andrew, Jake, Craig, Bruce, Lena, Amy, Alisa, and Alex

Mitchel, Myself, Andrew, Chris, Dylan, Naser, Stephanie, Catherine, Lincoln, Shana, Luan, Miheer and Andrew.

Come on in, We know you will like it.
11
May
10

The big to do list

I will try give you an idea of what the last few weeks have been like. Its hard to plan something, and for months sit by painfully as it seems to take forever to complete. Then outta nowhere it comes down to a mad flurry of electricians, plumbers, carpenters, dishwashers and cooks all vying for the same bit of space. Here are in pictures the last weeks of our disheveled and run down building, turning from a construction zone into an actual restaurant.
The counting down to the unveiling is about to begin…….

The big to do list, page one,

Page two,

And finally page three.

Another in the long list of permits needed to do anything!

Ah yes, having the drains cleaned. A pleasant experience, just ask anyone who was inside the building that day.

Just a little embarassing our hoarding covering the front or maybe a rouse to make the unveiling a bit more spectacular.

The instalation of the acoustical ceiling.

Completed!

The arrival of the banquettes.

The start of the millwork being delivered and installed. This will become a sommeliers station.

The instalation of the glass at the front entrance.

The stairs installed with runway lighting!

The lighting illuminating the brick walls complete.

The freshly oiled floors.

The bar fridges in place, needless to say they were not empty for long!

With the major construction done it was time to install the banquettes.

One of our carpenters worked to the point of exhaustion. We joked that we built everything twice in order to get it right.

The rebuilt patio doors looking out.

Franco, Paese's master carpenter having a celabratory cigarette after removing the hoarding exposing our last 9 months of work.

Franco either admiring his handy work or hating us for making him do everything twice.

The completion of the patio. Bringing a bit of life to this tired block.

The completed bathrooms. Yes thats me in a sling. There is never a good tiime to fracture and dislocate ones shoulder. Especially when your the chef and your restaurants just about to open.

Deirdre and Tony, trying to deciede the correct angle of the back of the banquettes. A very important measure considering we want people to sit, eat and drink for hours.

Craig Hudson, General manager looking at the above scene and wanting nothing to do with it.

It starts to feel real when the carpenters move out their tools and the tables and chairs start showing up.

Tables built, and the lights hung.

After an intensive three hour dusting it was starting to come together.

From the dining room looking towards the bar area and the front of the restaurant.

A couple of thousand glasses waiting to be washed and polished.

The stairwell heading down to the washrooms but more importantly the 3500 bottle cellar.

This wont be empty for long if Bruce has anything to do with it.

This is where I am planning to sleep at night.

Looking down the bar towards the back of the dining room.

The kitchen, scrubed and ready to start cooking.

It's rare for a kitchen crew to see this sight. Brand new gleaming pots and pans.

Okay enough is enough, if you have been following us for this long you are about as tired of watching construction shots as I am. we have kept you in suspense for far too long. As I type this, the building has been dusted, polished and buffed to an impecible shine. The kitchen coolers are on, the stoves have been lit, the wine glasses are aching to be filled. The staff are chomping at the bit, the menu is being printed and the food orders are waiting to be called in. There is only one little piece of paper that seperates us from welcoming the public in through the  front door and its called a liqour license. Next post the “reveal”.    

I promise!!!!!!!!!!!!!    

20
Apr
10

The in betweeen, in between , in between……..

Ouch!

Okay,so we are tired of people asking when are you going to be open? Tired of people asking “whats taking so long?” Well here is the deal, yes it’s taking longer than we would have wanted  but it’s not like we are sitting around waiting for this thing to happen. If it wasnt for the fact that our catering company and original location never seem to slow down you would have been seeing completed pictures of King Street a long time ago. By my math since we acquired our King street location in August we have served about 4800 hundred people with our catering company and about 10 000 people in the restaurant, so we have been a little tied up.  

So here is where the main players at King street stack up. I have just about finished the hiring of my kitchen and I have what I feel are really great and young group of eager cooks. As much as I was concerned about actual cooking ability, to be honest I was also looking for something a little bit more. The cooking I can teach but I talked a lot in my interviewing process about the culture of kitchens and about the culture of food. I waxed poetically about the respect for the profession and what it all meant, the ones who nodded in agreement got a second interview.  

The casting couch.

I am deep into the menu development and I am excited about the dishes. This menu is nothing new to me, I have been cooking this style now for many years. We are going to serve Italian food but  “Modo Mio” , my way. I am not Italian but  the heart and soul of Italian cooking to me is  no different than the cooking I ate growing up in the prairies. Take the best of what you have and do as little as possible. Simple food, which as I always say is the hardest food to cook. “Inspired in Italy, made in Canada” is the motto we use to describe the food we cook. 

Says it all.

A balanced menu must have a bit of everything. Hot, cold, crunchy, soft, sweet, salty,a bit of meat,  a bit of fish, and a whole lot of vegetables. It’s easy to write ideas down on paper but a lot of things sound better in print than they do in 3D. There is a vegetarian dish that is taking me weeks to get right, yet others were a one take. Each preparation must be weighed measured,  calculated and put into recipe form. Chefs love the free form artistry of the kitchen but crash when it comes to the mathematics of cooking. To me it’s the difference between a flash in the pan or longevity.  

And where is Deirdre? well all she has to worry about trying to decide on our new company logo’s, our olive oil and tomato sauce branding ( you heard it here first ), the website and too many last-minute details, tooo long for me to type in this post, oh and running the catering department.  

Deirdre is in control of the way our place looks physically and also from a marketing/branding point of view. How do you make yourself look different in an age where branding is everything? Our old logos were great but it seemed as the design of the new place unfolded they just didn’t fit. Part of the process was hooking up with a great company called 52 Pick up Inc. They sat us down, therapy style and ask us who we really were. It was an interesting exercise, and forced us to look at our business as more than how many people are we serving this week to where we were headed 5 years from now. They nailed our what, who, and why and put it all in a neat little package. 

Somebody's chef jacket, I am not saying who!

And Tony? Well in between being our kitchen bitch, mountain bike training for his yearly strip to Sedona, over seeing the contractors at King street, dealing with the new designers at our new cafe location ( you heard it here first ) working most catering jobs we do, and holding all thing L EAT and Paese together , Tony finds time to make sure my new smoker gets built, our new the new walk in refrigeration gets installed at head office, the gardens get planted and everybody is taken care of and gets paid. 

This is the pay off for months of straight work. Tony and his friends in Sedona.

Here in picture form is just a few of the things we had going on over the past 8 months while  King Street was being built.  

Take a pot and a hose and an old fridge and what do you get? A smoker of course! Ah the Italian, hungarian ingenuity.

People laughed but it worked. So much so we decided to get professional.

George the original Paese chef, now our resident carpenter constructing our new smoker.

Tony transferring our first batch of red wine vinegar into a cask for aging. How did it taste? So good I will never buy red wine vinegar ever again.

And this?

Welcome to the L EAT farm.

We turned it into this, our first gardens. Located just around the corner from our head office. Close enough that I could disappear in the middle of the day and become a farmer.

This is where I would sit in the mornings and hang out with the ground hogs and racoons. We were able to compost all of kitchen scraps and ended up serving only our tomatoes all summer long.

And this is what happened to the garden, turned into preserves that will end up on our menu at King street.

Our guard cat "Meat balls" , waiting for her beef tenderloin and red wine jus. She eats better that the kitchen staff.

The "bus" as its become known. A 1973 Volkswagon that is currently being restored. Soon to be another of our catering vans.

Taking as long to complete as King Street.

The cafe. Soon to be called L EAT express. Many more blog post about this one I am sure.

Okay stay tuned, completed Paese King street photos coming this week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

15
Mar
10

The in between, part two

Little reminders to keep everyone in line.

 

This process has taken months. A lot longer than any of us had expected. We have faced tremendous hurdles and as construction is now moving along and the finishing has begun, there is an actual end in sight. It’s comforting to know that if ever you want to go to a restaurant where every single square inch has been thought about, measured, changed, redesigned and redesigned again, all for your pleasure, than this is the place.  All the months of frustration, day dreaming and hard work are finally starting to take shape. There is a buzz amongst us and a feeling that all of the struggles are finally about to pay off.      

 Final decisions about logo’s, paint color’s, lights, tables, floor colors, tiles, toilet paper holders, tea pots, napkin folds, email addresses, salt shakers, and music have been made. Next are decisions about staff, uniforms, style of service, cocktails, the color of the cocktail napkins, websites, toilet paper, positioning statements, press releases, wine lists, cream and sugar holders, washroom signs, purse hooks, and place mats.     

The front entrance framed.

 

Hiding a big ugly bulkhead above the stairway to downstairs. Because space is such an issue this enclosed area will hide the stereo, light switches and also double as a closet.

 

The bar area with the brick exposed, being prepped for new tile.

 

The new bar made out of solid walnut butcher block.

 

Picking the finishes for the bar top.

 

Tony doing some research and development, oh and testing the finishes.

 

When we were done with the ceiling it ended up looking like this.

 

Good thing the drywallers were able to do this.

 

The holes for the infamous lights that moved many times.

 

The lights in their final home.

 

We found someone who took reclaimed yellow brick and cut it into thin strips and was able to match it up our existing walls. Here it is ready to go up on the walls.

 

And this is the end result.

 

The constant to do lists posted everywhere.

 

We love writing on walls.

 

Late night wall sketches of custom kitchen stainless shelves we dreamt up.

 

When inspiration strikes you have to write it down, doesn't matter where.

 

A cardboard drawing of a piece for behind the bar.

 

The new womans washroom stalls, tiled and with the trim installed.

 

Patching done on the old hardwood floor.

 

The wine cellar with the insulation blow in, drywalled and with the doors installed.

 

Laying down the new kitchen floor, all in grey but what you can't see are the fire engine red tiles just put on the walls.

 

Respect for the trades.

 

The finished kitchen, I might be biased but I will definitely have the coolest kitchen in the city!

 

It was a very happy day when this showed up. Our Moretti Forni pizza oven from Italy. I can almost taste it!

 

Out the kitchen window looking into the dining room.

 

Having the blown insulation put into the dining room ceilings.

 

The hoarding in place as the new front was being installed.

 

Another suprise occured when the wall came down for the new front door and this steel beam was right in the middle of the opening. Oops!

 

  

The end is near and will I ever be glad when this month is over!

 

We have given ourselves two weeks to open, enough talking about it, it’s time. Its good to finally see things we envisioned be designed and delivered. It nice to see the place starting to come together. It will be a relief to  finally wipe off all the dust and be polishing instead of scraping. Now it’s time to hire the people that we are going to intrust to carry forth our vision. To be honest it’s a bit frightening. I am confident in  our opening management team, we have worked together for months, discussing in front of the espresso machine every morning just how we are going to different and how we are going to put our stamp on this city. We have had inspiration at the weirdest moments, had heated conversations in walk in fridges, scribbled notes on almost anything and complied them into a manifesto that will be handed to our new employees. It will talk about a culture of food, consistency, passion, common sense, communication, organization , sharp knives, and pressed shirts. It’s now our job to get them to understand all the things we as management have been debating and discussing over the past months. The way a place looks only goes so far and once construction is over the real job begins.  

13
Mar
10

The in betweeen……

        

The plan, but first..............

The picture above was one of the first sets of plans drawn up for the rebirth of  our King street location. The pictures in this post are but a few of the hundreds that were taken during the demolition period. I will try to give a sense of how much work it was to gut and empty out our building. What was supposed to be a quick turn around of maybe a couple months and was really just supposed to be a cosmetic facelift to the old restaurant turned into this. Who knew how much of a toll years of bad plumbing jobs, poorly executed electrical repairs, layers of paint, years of dust, a century of so many different types of businesses inhabiting this building had taken. In our effort to do things properly meant basically emptying the building and stripping everything back to the bare walls. And that’s exactly what we did. Here is the proof.

 

Before we could set our boys loose on destroying the place we had to clean out the old fixtures, funny enough this stuff was all sold. Some restaurants just don't die!

After removing the fixtures and all the silk it was time.

Demolition! Day one. It's too bad that this exercise in relieving aggression has to happen before working with the designers.

The delicate removal of treasured items using prybars, hammers and brute strength. Other more precise jobs required an axe.

To say that the place hadn't been cleaned in a while was like saying that the place just needed a coat of paint.

The original bar was so big it had to be cut into sections to get it out of the place

The removal of the bar. Dirty, smelly, sticky and heavy.

The yellow brick we hoped would run the length of the building was missing when we opened up the walls.

Not what we wanted, but to be expected in a hundred year old building.

Whatever we didn't save ended up looking like this.

The morning ritual, Tim Hortons and more garbage.

We filled 6 of these with garbage.

While the front was being demolished we started the kitchen clean up. Scraping, scrubbing and a major degreasing.

Scraping,

Scrubbing,

And a major degreasing!

Loading up the cleaned kitchen equipment into the shipping container to be stored out back untill the kitchen was finished.

The kitchen stripped and all the stoves and fridges powerwashed and in a shipping container out back. Ready for new tiles.

When washroom are this filthy there is only one way to clean them....

Like this.

The original managers office in the basement, on it's way to becoming something much more important. See below.

 

Gutted and soon to being our new wine cellar and the show piece of the downstairs.

The turning in of one of the extra beer fridges into a room for making pasta.

Tearing open walls and moving equipment in the basement looking for leaks.

 The process took about 2 months. The first few days were fun, ripping into the place with abandon. Weeks later it seemed endless and overwhelming. With the building emptied it had promise and now many months later with the finishing touches about to begin it feels like ages ago that we started. Stay tuned for the next post and watch the transformation unfold.
 

     

05
Mar
10

The Before………..

We began with this.

This post is about the transformation of this century old building into a casual, neighbourhood restaurant in downtown Toronto. These first sets of photographs were taken in the first few weeks of us acquiring the building. We had hoped to come in, clean up the garbage, buy new tables, chairs and serving pieces, put in the menu from our Bathurst location and open for business with in two to three months. After spending a few days inside the building we realized that it needed much more than just a quick clean up, what the building  needed was a fresh start. The decision was made, the plans drawn up and preparations began. To say the project took on a life of its own would be an understatement. When it’s all said and done it will be a place that serves great food with a really cool look and amazing atmosphere but to the people who have been involved every step of the way its like  giving birth to a child, and will have probably hurt just as much!  

Ok, here we go........

This was some bad 70's design, except it was 2009! This was as you walked in the front door and were looking towards the back of the restaurant.

Fake, dusty plants, a metaphor for the inspiration in this place.

The original bar, If it could tell stories I am sure they would be good. I would know, I found an envelope of pictures behind it, none of which will ever be posted here.

Not to make too much fun of the place, it's too easy but this was a very successful bistro for many years and for what ever reason just fell on hard times.

Everywhere there was filth and disorganization. It wasnt like this place was abandoned for months it was operational weeks before we acquired it.

This was a private dining area which was cleared later in the evening for a private dance stage.

Not sure what this was supposed to be other than a fire hazard.

There was some odd Moroccan, Mardi Gras, Court jester design to the whole place. These were windows cut into a stairwell.

The basement was a scary, disgusting place.

Actual basement floors as we found them.

Beer fridges, found with empty kegs. Major disappointment.

Another disappointment was spending a thousand dollars to have someone drill the safe to find absolutely nothing inside.

The downstairs kitchen, never used and containing the only equipment that didn't have to be refurbished.

The original managers office. Soon to become a wine cellar.

The original kitchen tiles. No amount of mopping was going to fix these floors.

Want to see the kitchen? It had a yellow card in the front window which indicates that they had been flagged for a health violation. Too many to count, actually.

Once again just cluttered and disorganized.

This equipment was so greasy we couldn't even wash it. Most of it was thrown out.

From the furthest point of the back of the restaurant looking towards the front.

Not as bad as you would think but it was inside the drawers, fridges and underneath that was unspeakable.

Do you want to see what two-week old food looks like? Lets just say that the smell hits you first!

Yes, actual food was stored here!

Okay enough ugliness, parties over, last call, end of the line.

Okay you get the point, the place was ugly. This was no restaurant makeover crap. Nothing here was going to be transformed in seven days, we needed seven months dammit! Once the decision was made we started demolition. The old fixtures were sold, what wasnt wanted was reduced to sawdust and the rebirth was started.  

08
Feb
10

The next chapter

Original City street map 1890

This story has its seeds planted some two years earlier when Tony asked me outright if I was interested in opening another restaurant. Without any apprehension I answered ” Yes! “. Everyone who works in this business at some point and time comes to the realization that what they want is to be the person calling the shots. My whole career I have kept a mental list in my head of all the things I have seen done right, and all the things that I have seen done wrong. Unfortunately for most, the done wrong list tends to be much longer that the done right. Once it was decided upon, we set ourselves on a course of righting the wrongs and spent many mornings in the months leading up to finding a place, sipping espresso and collecting our thoughts and ideas that would eventually form the framework for the next chapter of Paese.

After months of scouring Toronto for a suitable location to take our brand of Canadian inspired Italian food to a new audience, Tony’s friend D.C.  stumbled upon a building smack dab in the middle of one of Toronto’s oldest districts. We viewed it, took stock of the neighbourhood and made an almost unanimous decision, and within 72 hours we had won the location lottery. We beat out a lot of  other people crazy enough to take a chance and we secured a new home for Paese at 333 King Street West.

The before.............

King Street and Avenue Road looking east 1880's

Buildings were being built along this street as early as the 1860’s but it wasn’t until the late 1890’s when the Academy of Music theater opened and a few years later the Royal Alexander theater opened on King and University, becoming the first buildings in Toronto to be completely electric.  King Street was on its way to becoming the entertainment center  of Toronto.

The Royal Alexander Theater, 1908

A postcard from the 1890's depicting The Royal Alexander Theater.

In the early 1900’s King Street was a beautiful tree lined boulevard; alongside the theaters were the Lieutenant Governors private residence, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and the original Upper Canada College. During the 1920’s the areas around the theaters began to change, the Governors residence was torn down and the property was sold and turned in rail yards. This brought with it factories and to all sides warehouses, heavy machinery and loading docks sprung up. Overtime these areas became a dark and industrial place. Smog hung heavy in the air and once a place of music and dance became an industrial center. By the 1950’s this street was a rundown derelict part of town. Rents were cheap and the buildings in decay. By 1960 the theaters were slated for demolition until Ed Mirvish stepped in and bought the Royal Alexander theater.  A year of restoration brought it back to its former glory. The people returned and the rebirth of King Street was on its way. This street now boats the Roy Thompson Hall, National film board, CBC headquarters, restaurants , night clubs, condominiums and soon, Paese King Street West.

The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario's private residence, 1908.

King Street West looking east 1890's

Our building, built sometime around the early 1900’s was never so glamorous. Another in a block of multi- use office buildings, its two story plain brick existence was home to such businesses as Spiegel Max and Son’s cigarette papers and Fosters Printers and Stationers.

For the last 12 years it had been home to a bistro and night club. The previous owners had long since cared about the well being of the building and the yellow card in the front window showed that they cared even less about the customers. When we entered, the previous owners had been (censored)  for failure (censored) everybody and the building had been shuttered for weeks. Swarms of fruit flies and the stench of rotting food greeted us upon entering. It’s like they just got up and left. Tables set with cutlery and plates, drinks still on the bar, food still in the refrigerators.

Here we go! our first walk through.

From the front door looking towards the back.

Upon entering the kitchen this was the first present left for us, disgusting!

Three week old risotto anyone?

The kitchen in it's original state before being heavily degreased.

It was hard in looking at the place to envision what it could be. It felt like a bad movie from the late 70’s. Some bizarre sort of Moroccan meets Mardi gras theme, red and gold silk was strung from the ceilings, black cast iron chandeliers, crushed red velvet upholstry and the unmistakable feeling of faded glory. We had hoped for a quick paint job, some new plates and chairs and a quick turnaround of a month or two but what we got was four brick walls, a roof and six 40 yard dumpsters of garbage.

Our boys, taking care of business.

Day one of demolition

Just like a fairytale.....

Next!

The decision was made to make what was old, new again and if we were going to do it, let’s do it right. Let’s be the first in a very long time to give this block something new, like animals that had been caged too long at Bathurst and Wilson we torn into the old building with abandon.  We threw out everything; whatever we touched was covered with a layer of grease so thick it was cheaper to get rid of it than spend the time cleaning. We left only the floors and the bare brick walls. It felt liberating, like giving the old building a new lease on life. Standing proud and weathering a depression, war, fires and gentrification, 333 King Street West was going to be reborn.

masking tape marking the things that were never to return.

The Paese wrecking crew, refueling before getting back to destroying.

Where to begin, it seemed overwhelming.

In coming up for a design of the new Paese we decided to brighten the place up, introduce clean contemporary lines, and create a relaxed and casual feel.  We were recommended a highly regarded design company and luckily for us they agreed to fit us in. Our timelines were strict, we had been given 2 months of free rent and there was a lot to do. We should have ran the other way when the first set of drawings came back; we were given nothing that we had asked for. The century old yellow brick adorning the walls was to be painted, the beautiful hardwood floors were gone, the vaulted ceilings lowered and the walls where there was no brick was to be covered in dark walnut.  What? Where did the soul of the building go? Where was the Italy meets Canada guideline we had asked for?

The first very expensive set of poorly designed drawings.

What the hell?

The process had been started, and we were chomping at the bit. It was August when got the building and we had a window of time in order to open and hopefully catch some of the Christmas crowd but that window was closing fast, without sets of finalized plans nothing could be started.  The electricians couldn’t start because they didn’t have any walls to put their wires in; the plumbers couldn’t start running lines because they didn’t know where the walls would be and the carpenters couldn’t put up the walls because we couldn’t get the designers to decide what the hell they were doing.

What we hoped would be hiding some more yellow brick turned out to look like this when we opened up the walls.

The managers office, before being remodeled.

And after remodeling.

And so everyone sat at home, for two months the building sat empty, a huge divide separated us and the designer’s vision. Threatening phone calls were made where unpleasantries where exchanged and tensions mounted with every passing month of writing rent checks on an empty building. If it wasn’t for the intestinal fortitude of Tony and his unfaltering belief in Deirdre and myself,  it might have been easy to pack it in. No amounts of misguided architects trying to turn the place into an uber modern Chinese restaurant, or shifty unpaid club promoters brandishing copper pipes were going stop us from opening.

Things were taking so long Tony managed two vactions. Here he is in Sedona multi tasking trying to figure out whats going on back in T.O.

Anyone can open a restaurant, but to have it be functional is a different thing. Only with experience can you properly design a functional space. There are a million things that the customer never sees and for a reason. We are the people who look at every little detail of everyone elses restaurant and take that information home with us.  We are those people, that when sitting in another restaurant will ask the busboy for a tape measure so we can calculate the width of the table. We analyze everything, like the number of tables in the room, how many people we can comfortably sit, how much space between tables we need for the servers to walk, how high the lights must hang, and how many different combinations of stemware, plates and cutlery are needed and can fit at your table. We are the people that weigh cutlery in order to know if it’s going to be too heavy to hold over the duration of the meal or if it’s going to slide off the plate as your server carries it away and come crashing to the floor. We pour water into soup bowls measuring the capacity; hold the edges of plates to see how easy they are to carry, lift bowls off tables at other establishments to see where they got them from , and steal menus and wine lists wherever we go.

We have moved every conceivable wall in our space, blown through countless measuring tapes, made the ceiling look like Swiss cheese trying to perfect the position of the lights, designed and redesigned everything about a hundred times, made carpenters crazy, have had to answer on more than one occasion “What difference does moving it 4 inches make?”  drank a hundred cups of Starbucks over early morning bitching sessions, and have finally started to see the seeds of our plan hatched so many years back, start to come to fruition.

It is now the beginning of February and the wine cellar has been sprayed with insulation, the kitchen has been tiled, the stoves rebuilt, the hardwood floors patched, the brick refurbished, the sound system wired, the dishwashers refurbished, the electrical finished, and the walls are in place.

Taken late last night, progress!

The plates have been decided on, the wine glasses bought, cutlery weighed and ordered. The kitchen small wares picked out and all the custom stainless steel has been built. The end is near and the finish line in sight but there is yet so much to do. Months of dreaming and planning, days spent blurry eyed in front of computer typing employee hand books and checklists, scraps of menu ideas, piles of cook books, and a never ending to do list are just the start of a mad rush to opening day. Watch it all unfold, highlights coming daily!

First draft of the new menus!