Tag Archives: italian

Fusaro’s: Don’t overlook this tiny gem

The neighbourhood around Sherbourne and Richmond could hardly be called up-and-coming. It is more as if gentrification slowly crept its way up from the St. Lawrence market and stalled at this intersection. Travel a block east or a block north and you would be hard-pressed to find more than a convenience store with a microwave to warm up a frozen burrito. How is it, then, that I could have overlooked Fusaro’s, at 294 Richmond St. East? This culinary oasis is the second iteration of the popular Italian kitchen (the other location is at Queen and Spadina); and while it has been at this location since 2010, that is roughly the same length of time I have carted my knives and chef’s uniform past this intersection to the George Brown chef’s school, oblivious to its existence.

My first venture into Fusaro’s was limited by time. I had only 40 minutes before class, and quickly scanned the handwritten blackboard. I was immediately attracted by the arancini in pomodoro sauce, a dish I had learned about in my Italian cooking course. Although they have recently cropped up everywhere (Loblaw’s take-away counter, for example), arancini are the mark of a real homemade Italian restaurant, as they are made from leftover risotto, wrapped around a piece of mozzarella and then deep-fried.

The arancini at Fusaro’s are large – roughly the size of a softball. Tearing open the crisp shell of the rice ball is a delight; the scent of the yellow rice hints at turmeric, although the wait staff is blissfully ignorant as to what the magic yellow ingredient might be. Mozzarella oozes from the centre and spills into the rich tomato basil sauce in which the arancini has been presented. As the steam subsides and the dish cools, the consistency of the mozzarella changes from soft to al dente, adding excitement to the dish. The arancini are also available with beef ragú, but why would you bother, when for $7, you can have heaven on a plate? One caveat: the fourth arancino we ordered on a subsequent visit was missing the mozzarella from the centre. The helpful server brought a dish with shavings of parmesan to replace the missing ingredient, but it just wasn’t the same. And by the way, arancini are not on the printed menu. Those in the know will find them on the blackboard.

On a second visit, I brought a dinner partner, my 20-something son. I enquired about the gnocchi and learned that they are not made in-house. Instead, I ordered La Cosentina, a pasta dish comprised of penne, roasted peppers, spinach and a creamy tomato basil sauce with goat cheese. I came to dinner hungry, but this dish was substantial enough to make me glad I had not ordered a salad to start. The choice of ingredients was harmonious and held my interest. I chose a red wine, Nero D’Avola, to accompany my meal; I felt like I had been magically transported to someone’s home in Italy. My son ordered the Cotoletta of veal, which is served with sautéed vegetables and a side of linguine with pomodoro sauce. At $15, this is one of the most expensive menu items. The veal was tender, the vegetables – red pepper, yellow zucchini – sweet and well seasoned, and the linguini perfectly prepared.

Fusaros winelistThe wine list is short, which means that all wines are available either by the glass ($6) or by the bottle ($25). On this particular  night, there were three reds, two whites and one rosé on offer, all from Italy. In addition, a selection of Canadian and imported beers are available for $5.50 a bottle.

The motto on the blackboard, roughly translated, means “One never grows old at the table.” Despite the motto, those with weary bones will appreciate the main floor washrooms. According to its website, Fusaro’s prides itself on its Italian home cooking, and would like to become your dining room when you need a break from the kitchen. For me, it is exactly that: my go-to dinner spot just before a class at the George Brown chef school. Its hip vibe, intimate size and affordable pricing also make it a contender for a 20-something date night. Just remember to hitch the Richmond Street bus westward if you want to hang out with the cool kids.




Twitter and Instagram @fusaros

294 Richmond St. E., Toronto M5A 1P5


Open Monday – Friday 9 am – 9 pm

Saturday 10 am – 4 pm

Closed Sundays

Wheelchair accessible, with main floor bathroom

For those working in downtown Toronto, Fusaro’s can be found on rotation in the lunch delivery menu of Ubereats. Check ubereats.com for details.

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Homemade pasta: the no-machine method

Take heed, university student: if you have flour and eggs at your house, you have pasta.  And if you have olive oil and garlic as well, you have dinner. The amounts described below are approximate. As a rule of thumb, you need about 200 g (1 cup) of flour for 2 eggs. That makes enough pasta for two people.


  • 200 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour – if you live in a neighbourhood with Italian goods, choose ’00’ flour
  • 2 large eggs (If your eggs are small, you can add a teaspoon of tomato paste to each small egg. The result is red pasta)
  • fresh garlic and extra virgin olive oil (optional)


1. Make a mound of flour in the centre of your clean working space.

2. Make a well in the centre of the flour, and break two eggs into the well.

3. Use a fork to break the yolks and stir the eggs, gradually incorporating the flour into the mixture, a bit at a time.

4. Once most of the flour has been incorporated into the eggs, knead the dough until it begins to have a glossy appearance.

5. After kneading, leave your dough covered with a dishtowel for at least 30 minutes. Kneading caused the gluten in the dough to tighten up, and now you are letting it relax. This is an essential step. While waiting for the dough to relax, start thinking of what sauce you will put on it later. A very simple solution is to sauté some garlic at low heat in olive oil (gently – garlic burns easily), and stir it into your cooked noodles later. If you have some parmesan, get grating.

6. Cut the dough into two pieces. You are going to be rolling out one piece at a time, so keep the other piece covered, so it doesn’t dry out. Each of the pieces of dough serves one person.

7. Roll each piece out as thinly as you can, with a rolling pin or empty wine bottle. It helps to roll from the middle outwards.

8. Once rolled out, use a knife to slice noodles into ribbons. Try to keep all of your noodles approximately the same thickness, so that they will cook at the same rate.

9. Repeat rolling and cutting for the remaining piece of dough. If you don’t feel like rolling the rest of the dough, you can keep it in a plastic bag in the freezer for another day. Remember that the dough will need time to thaw and relax before rolling later. If you want to keep rolling, but don’t want that many noodles today, you can hang the extra noodles to dry over the back of a chair overnight. The shapes and sizes of pasta noodles each have their own name. If yours look like this, you made fettucine.


Here, I cut all of my remnants of dough into random shapes, which are called stracci:


10. Set a pot of water to boil. Once boiling, drop in your noodles and leave the lid off. Check your noodles for doneness every two minutes. Noodles are done when they are “al dente“, meaning that they are soft, but are still firm to the bite. Fresh noodles cook very quickly so be careful!

11. Strain noodles and stir in some sautéed garlic and oil (this is called aglio e olio in Italy). Add some grated parmesan or parsley, if you have some – if not, no worries. You are done!

P.S. If anyone tells you that there is no protein in your dinner, just tell them you had an egg. It’s true.

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Risotto is easy

It always surprises me when I hear people say that risotto takes a long time to make, or that it is fussy. I credit Jamie Oliver for introducing me to real Italian risotto, and I have riffed on his recipes ever since. I admit that my first attempts took me a while to make. However, now that I have made my own pared-down versions dozens of times, I can make risotto in 25 minutes, from chopping board to table. The trick is to prep your vegetables between stirs, while the rice is bubbling. Here’s my quick Mushroom Risotto, with a note about adding meat for the carnivores:


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 litre (4 cups) broth (your choice)
  • 2 cups of assorted mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
  • 30 g (1 ounce) of parmesan, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • optional: bits of leftover roast chicken or smoked meat


1. Start a litre of broth simmering gently at the back of your stove. I use a good quality organic vegetable broth from concentrate. It is your choice, depending on what flavours you want to throw in at the end.

Rice with wine

2. In a separate saucepan, sauté arborio rice in a glug of olive oil at medium high heat. A cup of rice will do for four people. Once the rice is coated in the hot oil, pour in a cup of white wine – it will let off plenty of steam and smells divine.


3. Stir while the rice absorbs the wine, then pour a ladleful of broth into the pot. Give it a stir from time to time, while you sauté some mushrooms in a separate pan. I used shitake, button, oyster, porcini and nameko, but use whatever you have available.

4. When each ladleful of broth is almost completely absorbed, you can add another and continue stirring. Meanwhile, save time by chopping some spring onions and grating some parmesan between stirs. We will use these later.

5. Once you have stirred in the final ladleful of broth, and have given the rice a chance to absorb most of it, you are ready to add your main flavourings. In this case, we are using sautéed mushrooms and spring onions. Throw them into the rice and give them a stir. At this stage, you could add to this risotto by throwing in leftover diced roast chicken or smoked meat, if that is your thing. Take your risotto off the heat while it has a loose and glossy consistency.

6. Stir in the grated parmesan and adjust your seasoning. Done in 25 minutes!

Mushroom risotto8


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