Matt Basile can fairly be called a bundle of energy. In less than two years, he has gone from tables at 99 Sudbury to pop-up events around the city to owning a food truck to opening a restaurant. Oh, and let’s not forget shooting a TV show for Travel & Escape, documenting this whirlwind. You knew Matt, a.k.a. Fidel Gastro, was at an event when you heard the boisterous cries of, “OLÉ!” and when you spotted the omnipresent Elvis bust. Between his enthusiasm and his tasty sandwiches, it is no surprise that Matt has fast-tracked his way to opening his restaurant, Lisa Marie (638 Queen St. West). The menu is comprised of cichetti – small dishes enabling you to try lots of options – and a couple of specials. I went with two equally hungry friends and we decided to order the entire menu, plus one of the specials as it sounded too good to resist. We asked our waiter, Chris, if we were being too ambitious; he asked us to put our trust in him and told us he’d take care of us. If we were getting too full, just let him know and we’d skip right to the special.
So here we go…
The first round of food consisted of: beer-braised short rib on polenta, brined eggplant with tallegio cheese and chili peppers, the (MASSIVE) turkey wing done in a buffalo style and the deep fried pizza with smoked duck and enoki mushroom and asparagus slaw.
The pizza here was the table’s favourite: the duck chicharron was the perfect topping for this umami-bomb of a pizza. We devoured every bite but my dining companions were nice enough to leave me the crispy bits from the dinosaur-like portion of turkey wing…
Next up, plate two: the deep-fried cheeseburger topped with a pickle and poached quail egg and Lisa Marie’s take on a BLT – the “pork belly cheese thang.”
These two dishes were even better than the first round. I mean…one has pork belly, so…sold. The other is deep-fried brisket and chuck and is topped with a runny, gooey egg. Do not pass these up!
And what was up next on this tasty tour-de-force? One of the lighter dishes on the menu and one of the most addictive. Both delicious, but totally different:
On the left is the fresh puttanesca tuna roll: ahi tuna marinated in a puttanesca sauce and rolled up in rice paper with a variety of fresh vegetables. Crunchy, light and full of flavour, the rolls are finished with a sweet and sour mango sauce. This sauce was so good one of my tablemates drank the whole thing.
On the right…oh my. These puppies are nuggets of bacon-wrapped beef carpaccio, cheddar and kimchi on top of pickled vegetables. I’ll let that sink in for a moment. Do. Not. Miss. These. Only because we knew we had more food coming did we resist ordering another round or six.
Upon this round of food being cleared, Chris announced that our special, the sugo, would be the next dish to arrive. We had been anticipating this particular dish from the time it was described. It appeared at the table and all six eyes widened:
Homemade, fresh tomato sauce with bison and pork and a bag of warm, torn, salty bread. Simple, fun, delicious. We ripped open the bag and went to town on this one. We plowed through two bags of bread and polished off as much as humanly possible. The sauce was light and flavourful. I want this recipe; but, I suspect I will be out of luck so I will just have to order it every time I go. And I will. I strongly suggest you do, too.
Dessert? Oh, yes please. We knew that there would be a couple of dessert options but it was a no-brainer – we wanted The Elvis. This wonderful, vaguely evil concoction in a mason jar, is The Elvis:
It’s everything The King loved: bananas, caramelized bacon, peanut butter and whipped cream. The three of us happily tucked in and demolished it in a few minutes. We considered ordering another but decided that might be overkill. (It would’ve been worth it.)
I encourage you to check out Lisa Marie. It’s a cool place – with a little market in the back where I picked up some kimchi and bacon jam – that boasts a fun, boisterous vibe. They are taking limited reservations and I would bet Matt will be kept very busy. I doubt he’d have it any other way.