LOCAL FLAVOUR: Cascata Bistro

For Cascata Bistro, a 20-minute drive from downtown Burlington, the distance makes the difference.

Located on the corner of the main intersection in the tiny town of Carlisle (population 2,400), the three-year old bistro looks to serve-up Italian-inspired dishes packed with loads of local ingredients sourced from nearby farms.

In order to capitalize on a prime selection of local ingredients, Cascata turns the notion of the fixed-item menu on its head by offering guests a new “Market Menu” every single day. Known to regulars as “the board,” the market menu accounts for half of Cascata's daily offerings and serves as the main outlet for much of the restaurant's locally grown ingredients. If you are looking to taste what's local, the Market Menu is your chance to chew what's freshest. Accounting for 80 per cent of the orders in the restaurant, the Market Menu is a huge hit.

Owner Angela Checchia says she and her team source much of their local ingredients from neighbouring farms and through trips to the local farmers' market every weekend. Checchia says she aims to support the “100-mile diet” whenever possible.

“If we can, we will, especially in the summer. There are tonnes of farmers out here so it is very easy for us, especially with our produce in the summer.”

Rather than retain the rigidly of a strictly Italian identity, Cascata pegs itself as “Italian-inspired” due to the nature of its seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Checchia says this flexibility allows Cascata to make the most out of what's available at the moment.

“We are not making just Italian food, we are making what's in season as well”¦it really is just about freshness. It's Italian-inspired because we have pastas and flatbreads but we have lots of other things too that, growing up in an Italian family, I know are not exactly Italian things,” she says with a laugh.

However, Cascata's penchant for fresh and local is not strictly limited to what's on the fork or the spoon, the restaurant also prides itself on exclusively serving locally-made craft beers, like Rhyme & Reason pale ale sourced from Collective Arts Brewing in Burlington. A selection of wines, including some VQAs, is also available for those that prefer grapes to grains.

Another aspect that helps define Cascata Bistro is its juxtaposition of the new and old ““ almost as much can be said about the 100-year old landmark manor it occupies. Previously used as a butcher shop, then briefly as a bakery, the grand estate was up for lease three years ago when Checchia decided to pounce on the opportunity.

Contrary to the history ingrained in its white and red brick exterior, the interior décor delivers an immediate counter-punch. Enter the main dining room and you are delivered a welcome smack of vibrant turquoise, while light grey walls and thick, wooden dining tables bring it all back down to earth (insider tip: the tables and the bar were all crafted from ten slabs of reclaimed wood).

Pull a quick u-turn and you are greeted with a smaller, sun-soaked dining space that mixes a dark floor with white dining chairs and a white ceiling and  ““ the pií¨ce de résistance ““ antique silverware hung from blue lampshades.  
Although Cascata is not a large space ““ with seating for 35 inside and another 35 on the patio ““ the décor creates a very bright and refreshing dining space that still nods to the storied structure in which it is built.

Like many restaurants vying for business in today's competitive, fresh-obsessed restaurant landscape, Cascata (Italian for waterfall) also looks to entice visitors with a variety of themed nights during the week. Couples arriving on a Tuesday can enjoy a date night for just $42, while Wednesday's go a little off grid for “Gastro Pub” night, where guests can find fresh-made pub favourites like loaded French fries, lamb shepherds pie and even “Cascata-style” wings on the Market Menu. And Thursday nights are a must if you are a fan of live music.

Tying together a century-old faí§ade, fresh, locally-grown ingredients and an ever-changing menu, Cascata Bistro proves being different can be a delicious decision.

RECIPE: Smoked Fish Pate
RECIPE: Portobello Mushroom and Gorgonzola Risotto

– 281 Carlisle Road, Carlisle; 289.895.7986; cascatabistro.ca