The powerhouse team behind Ardo on King East have officially added Dova Restaurant to their culinary triad — which includes their company VIVI Imports, that brings carefully chosen goods into Toronto for sale in their restaurant pantry. While the emphasis is on Sicilian food at Dova Restaurant in Cabbagetown, the menu is uniquely dedicated to showcasing fresh and sustainable seafood from around the world.
“Dova is the opportunity to enjoy Sicilian food without going to Sicily,” says chef and co-owner Roberto Marotta. “The idea was to open a restaurant that wasn’t just going to be another Italian restaurant. We were specific about showcasing Sicilian cuisine on our menu, but with a Mediterranean twist.”
“The whole menu is designed to be shared,” explains director and co-owner Jacqueline Nicosia.
“[The intention is] to dine in the same way you would if you were in Sicily gathering with your family or going to a friend's house. It's very much how we eat there: you sit down, and one dish comes out after another.”
The ricotta and bottarga ($17) features whipped ricotta topped with tuna bottarga (cured fish eggs), lemon, and extra-virgin olive oil. The dish is served with Dova’s in-house sourdough bread baked in their wood-fired oven.
“This is a very unique delicacy coming from Sicily,” chef Marotta explains. “I would imagine that on the whole island there are probably only 15 people still doing this kind of curing process. The tuna fish average between 200 to 500 pounds, and their eggs are cured for a year.”
The polpo ($22) is, for chef Marotta, the best example of Sicilian classics with a Mediterranean twist. Featuring a seemingly simple combination of octopus, olive oil, parsley, celery leaf, and lemon, the meticulously sourced ingredients allow the fresh octopus — simmered for nearly an hour — to shine.
The pasta and sarde ($22) is linguine with preserved sardines, wild Sicilian fennel, strattu tomato, pine nuts, raisins, and house-made sourdough breadcrumbs.
The fughese pizza ($32) features wild boar sausage and chanterelle mushrooms both locally sourced from Ontario, fior di latte, house-made stracciatella cheese, arugula, and fresh black truffles. All of Dova’s pizzas are baked in their wood-fired oven.
The pesce spada ($21) is a delicate layer of raw swordfish carpaccio topped with mustard seeds, mint, and olive oil.
The dentice ($32) is grilled wild white snapper fillet with a salmoriglio sauce.
“We’re sourcing seafood from all over the world, from Italy to Nova Scotia," says chef Marotta. "We use wild catch fish, even if that requires adjusting the menu on an almost daily basis. It gives us the opportunity to serve what is actually a sustainable and fresh catch.”
Dova’s wine list showcases Sicilian and Ontarian wines, and resident mixologist Jeff Breant worked with Nicosia to design a cocktail menu that would set the drinks apart as their own visit-worthy event. All the cocktails at Dova can be made vegan, and most have their own thoughtfully curated mocktail partner.
The Dova Caesar (($16/$13 non-alcoholic option) is a triumph, featuring horseradish and pickle-infused vodka, lime juice, pomodoro water, house-made Worcestershire sauce, balsamic reduction, and celery bitters.
The Olio ($16/$12 non-alcoholic option) uses Sicilian olive oil infused gin, basil syrup, lime juice, egg whites, and Abbotts bitters for an easy and refreshing basil-forward cocktail.
Half-booths line the left side of the main floor dining room, with tables-for-two flanking the right. Usually, the dining room can accommodate 43 including the bar and chef’s table, but for COVID-addled times, Dova can seat 28 in total on the main floor. Warm orange hues mingle with soft greens, whites, and wood accents to create a calm atmosphere, and the entryway showcases some of Dova Restaurant’s wines and the various pantry items for sale.
The lower level hosts an intimate dining lounge that can seat between 12 to 24 people, and the room is outfitted with its own private bar. Perhaps the most exciting aspect in times of social distancing is Dova’s large and secluded backyard patio that can accommodate up to 40 people while adhering to COVID protocols. The patio is currently outfitted with large umbrellas to offer shade for summer lounging, but Dova Restaurant will be winterizing the patio soon for year-round use.
By: Saliha Chattoo, Posted on: Oct. 1, 2020