With a name like Basilio Pesce, becoming a chef is pretty much destiny doing its thing. Pesce got his start at some of Toronto’s most celebrated restaurants like Canoe, Bymark, Biff’s Bistro, North 44 before breaking out on his own to open Porzia, a Southern Italian cuisine hotspot near the likes of Grand Electric and Chantecler in Parkdale. Go to Porzia for its famous octopus, stay for the intimate atmosphere and great indie music and keep coming back for the all-round awesome experience of having a meal that’s dreamed up by the kind of chef who names his restaurant after his Italian Mom. If that’s not a sign that love goes into every aspect of Porzia, then we don’t know what is. We caught up with Pesce to find out what he loves most about living and working in Toronto and where some of his most memorable dining experiences have been over the years.
Give us a snippet about you. What should people know?
I’m just a very normal person who likes very simple things. I love to eat, I’m a homebody, and I love trashy tabloid magazines. I also think I’m the funniest person in the world, and I laugh at all my own jokes… all of them.
Finish this sentence: I love Toronto because…
I’ve lived here almost my entire life, and I’ve never felt bored of what the city has to offer. Also, the girls here are extremely attractive.
What are three things you simply cannot live without?
Bread, espresso and Mateo.
What’s your favourite item on your menu and why?
Either the octopus or bone marrow. The octopus is the only dish that’s been on the menu since day one. It was a shot in the dark that’s been received very well. The bone marrow combines two of my favourite items: bone marrow and braised snails. We braise the snails in veal stock for a few hours, so they get very sticky. It’s a great compliment to the fatty marrow.
What’s your hidden gem/go-to restaurant?
Mi Mi Vietnamese Restaurant on Gerrard. I’ve been going there for 20 years now.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
4 Mori in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. It was the meal that changed the way I perceived food: no menus, all fish. The kitchen just sent out a lot of plates – different hot/cold items that were caught earlier in the day. The only choice was grilled, fried or steamed for the mains. The bottle of homemade amaro at the end of the meal was the best way to end the meal. It felt like being in the basement of a family member’s house for a huge seafood fest.
What’s the one restaurant you have to try before you die?