It’s a Tuesday night at the Paradise, and from the wall of windows at the Osteria Rialto on the east side of the complex, I can see crowds of people entering for the 8:00 show. No rush, my seat is reserved, and in the last minutes I can enter the theatre from the adjoining door.
We enjoyed a tasting menu at the Rialto, and the key word is “enjoyed.” Osteria Rialto is a full-service Italian restaurant, not merely an adjunct to a theatre. The culinary passion of Chef de Cuisine Jesse Serratore is the result of a childhood immersed in the simplicity of farm life and the warmth of Italian family gatherings. He has developed a re-imagined menu inspired by his Southern Italian heritage.
From the Antipasti to Dolce, Serratore has chosen his ingredients fresh from the garden: dewy Zucchini Flowers stuffed with lemon and ricotta would make Mother Nature proud; Cappellitti alla Puttanesca with Fogo Island cod (the best,) Coal roasted eggplant coaxed into Caponata, delightful Spiedino de Carciofi with herbed mayonnaise. Pleasing to the eye without being prissy, plus delicious Italian flavours, all lead up to the Bistecca alla Fiorentina. I have seen the white Chianina (world’s largest beef cattle) in the Chianti region of Italy where a steak alla Fiorentina can feed a half dozen people. Chef Serratore’s version is a little smaller, and a little more delicious. Torta di Nocciola, and a really good espresso end a splendid culinary visit to Italy.
Chef Serratore has a clear vision. “We serve simple, honest and thoughtful cooking,” he says, “Inspired by great ingredients and Italian ideals. As an Italian restaurant in Southern Ontario, we use all the great products we can get our hands on: seafood from Fogo Island, 36-month-old Prosciutto hand-made by our meat purveyor, and all the fruits and vegetables. There are no rules, just great quality simply made. What is not negotiable, is the Italian flour imported from Italy.”
At intermission and after the show, I’m happy to try one of the signature cocktails at the Bar Biltmore, such as the Piña Quemada, which features charred pineapple-infused mezcal, maple, ginger, cinnamon and lime, and the Fireside Folly, mixed with hazelnut-infused brandy, rye, Peychaud’s nutmeg bitters and turbinado. Brilliant mixology. Bar Biltmore, which can be found just up the stairs of Osteria Rialto, is Paradise Theatre’s intimate speakeasy-style bar, with antique brass and an art deco look-and-feel. Bar Biltmore also houses a seasonal outdoor patio balcony that overlooks Bloor Street and the landmark Paradise sign.
David Thorek, Director of Operations, shows off all the attributes of the new complex, and all I can do is be amazed. I am tempted to join the Blue Door Wine Club. Blue Door Wine Shop is a gorgeous retail space within the complex, offering an assorted mix of classically expressed wines with an adventurous style. Customers can enjoy a sit-down glass at the tasting bar accompanied by small plates of food items curated by Paradise’s culinary team. Visitors can also purchase an array of unique bottles to take home. The Blue Door Wine Club offers a sommelier-selected, three-tiered subscription system for wine delivery across Toronto. New subscribers receive a 10% discount off the first two subscription deliveries. Items from the bottle shop can also be ordered through UberEats.
No space in the complex has been left abandoned. Café Paradise is a casual dining destination serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. Known for its coffee, wine and eats, the restaurant’s expansive menu includes everything from fresh bread baked daily in-house and ricotta pancakes, to decadent pastas and classics like Clubs and Cobbs.
Paradise Theatre is a historic, multi-arts venue, presenting not just film, but a range of live performances, too. With a history dating back to 1910, the 220-seat theatre underwent a series of upgrades in 2018 and 2019, featuring a modern art deco interior that pays homage to its early days. The space features an eclectic blend of programming each month, with Candlelight Concerts, Queer Cinema Club, Ghosts of the Chelsea Hotel and more all happening in September. The complete list of upcoming programming can be found HERE.
Paradise offers a unique, welcoming experience through food, drink and the arts. Their mission is to create opportunities to feel human by connecting, delighting and inspiring patrons. Paradise brings people together to share memorable experiences by creating a hospitality-first curated offer with broad appeal. An evening at the Paradise gives new meaning to Dinner and a Show.
Sara Waxman, OOnt, is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.