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Simple is Best

February 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Food


Piola During our childhood in northern Italy, my brother Dante and I were brought up on our mother’s homemade cooking. Her version of Italian food was simple and healthy, always using fresh and local ingredients. When we first opened Piola restaurant in 1986, our goal was to share our mother’s style of cooking in an environment that showcased Italy’s cultural esthetic.

From the very beginning, we wanted Piola’s kitchens to duplicate the way we cook at home with our family and friends. Our mother always told us, “Simple is best,” and I think too many chefs these days are complicating Italian cuisine. When we eat at home we don’t have excessive garnishes on the plate, so why would we do that in a restaurant? Cooking should be simple. We use the best produce straight from local farms, with the least amount of intervention before presenting it to customers.

Traditional Italian food is a lot less rich than other cuisines. You don’t use a lot of oil – you just use the best quality of olive oil. At home in Italy, our meals included a little bit of pasta or thin-crust pizza, some fresh protein and a small salad to finish. That’s it; that’s a meal. It’s a smart and
beautiful way to eat.

Our grandparents owned an outdoor brick oven in the Italian countryside, where they baked bread weekly for family and neighbours. During the war, my grandfather had befriended a soldier from a small village near Naples, and when the soldier visited his country house they tried making pizza in the bread oven. Being a typically southern Italian dish, pizza was quite the novelty for us at the time. Slowly pizzerias began opening all over Italy, eventually becoming a global food. Gradually northern Italian pizzas, like the ones offered at Piola, became known for being thinner and lighter than the Neapolitan style.

Our mother’s absolute favourite dish is gnocchi. Her northern Italian-style gnocchi is made with potato, flour and eggs, but you’ll see variations from region to region such as the Tuscan version featuring ricotta. Our mom usually served her gnocchi with a light tomato sauce or some sage and fresh melted butter. We managed to convince our mother to share her recipe with us, which is used at every Piola restaurant worldwide. We borrowed her traditional sauce as well, but on our Lucky Gnocchi Day on the 29th of each month, we offer the dish in eight different sauces.

Piola is about celebrating the elements of life that inspire and move us – namely, food and culture – in a welcoming, community focused space. My brother and I feel that a focus on art and community is as essential as the food.
NOW OPEN 1165 Queen St. West, Toronto, 416 477 4652

Stefano Carniato – Guest Food Editor
Piola restaurant was born 25 years ago in Treviso, Italy by two gastronomy inspired brothers. Former schoolteacher Dante Carniato and previous waiter Stefano Carniato teamed up to create a culinary culture that served the same simple, Italian food they were raised eating and enjoying in a warm atmosphere. These entrepreneurial ingredients quickly transformed into a success story that expanded to South America and beyond with over 30 locations around the world, including New York City, Sao Paulo, Miami, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Sante Fe, New Mexico and Toronto. The Carniato brothers currently oversee their epicurean empire from Miami Beach.


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