Time seems to fly by while dining at Casa Paco. It’s not that dining there is particularly action packed or their service is slow, if anything the restaurant exudes a calm vibe and their service is a well timed pace. Somehow, amongst the dim lighting and homey décor, hours just pass by without the constant pressure to vacate the table within a two-hour seating limit.
When I see jamon iberico on the menu, it gets ordered. The thin slices of prized Spanish cured ham are all at once sweet, smoky, and savoury. Casa Paco points out that they serve the “pata negra” ($38) variety of the ham, which indicates it’s produced with pure-bred Iberian pigs. Pedigree aside, it’s tasty and the plate contains plenty of slices to go around.
The duck ragû gnocchi ($26) showed promise with its sizeable portion – a lot heftier than my friend’s tendril of octopus – and intoxicating aroma. And while the sauce was hearty and delicious (the shredded duck tender and flavourful), the actual gnocchi was overcooked and bordered on mushy. Perhaps its because the pasta was boiled and then also cooked in the sauce. If so, the chef either needs to boil the gnocchi less or consider pan frying it to form a crust, prior to finishing it within the ragû.
A dessert is a must, and the coffee cardamom cheesecake ($15) is highly recommended. Prepared crustless, the outer edges of the sweet takes on a Basque cheesecake quality so it’s caramelized and dense. Yet, at the centre there’s a lovely coffee cardamom sauce that gives it a lovely hit of cool sweetness that’s almost like a cold molten lava cake. A unique dessert indeed.
I preferred the cheesecake to the brûléed lemon flan ($11) where the sugar was overly toasted and started emitting a bitter taste. The sugar slight slip aside, the dollop of cool cream against the slightly warm flan was a nice touch.
It wasn’t until after the dinner that I came across a Toronto Life article about Casa Paco. What makes it particularly unique is their four owners - Rob Bragagnolo, Caroline Chinery, Tommy Conrad, Ailbhe McMahon – are also the restaurant’s only staff, giving the establishment a mom and pop feel as customers will continually encounter the same faces.
Maybe that’s why we found dining there so relaxing. We felt taken care of and loved hearing McMahon mention that several of the flora scattered throughout the restaurant was saved from a local resident who had too many at their home and forced by their landlord to dispose of them. If only I lived in Little Italy, I too would become a familiar face amongst Casa Paco.
Gastro World's Grading System
- Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
- 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
- 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
- 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
- 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
- 10 - absolute perfection!
Is That It? I Want More!
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