Feast on casual Italian fare and chic décor at Burlington's newest downtown dining spot.

Destined to become the next trendy hotspot, Burlington's new Eatalia is a celebration of good food, good wine and good company.

The fare is authentic Italian, chosen because, as co-owner Ryan Fisher points out, “Italy has a long and enjoyable culture of people sitting and eating together, of welcoming people to their tables. That's what we aim to do here at Eatalia.”

The restaurant is located in what was once the vaulted rotunda of the National Trust bank on Brant Street. The dining area is one large, airy room full of natural light because of the 20 foot floor to ceiling windows encircling the space. At night, the juxtaposition between a bright and vibrant interior would play against the (somewhat) still of the night. A large, treed patio allows for extra seating in the summer months, making it an enjoyable evening under the stars or an afternoon of soaking up the sun.

The main visual focus on the dining area is the tall but welcoming bar that runs the length of the room. The curved, floor to ceiling black shelves form a backdrop for a sleek, silver bar. It makes a statement, but it's not imposing.
Rather, the welcoming curve draws people into the room and signals a good time is ready to be had.

Four long tables of six, inviting groups to sit together, are set in the middle of the room while smaller tables peppered throughout fill up the space that accommodates up to 65 guests. Aptly enough, the restaurant's vast and carefully selected collection of wine (more than 50 labels), is located where the bank's vault once was and opens onto the eating area.

Overall, there is a feeling of urban electricity within the space. Natural light wood contrasted with black and white and shots of red offer up a trendy feel, but despite the expansive and sophisticated atmosphere (and the fact that the space was once a bank), there are certainly no airs of pretence about the place. “We're a casual, authentic Italian dining experience in a modern setting,” says Fisher. With a nod to the very trendy décor he adds, “We may look expensive, but we're not. We're just about good food, good wine and good company.”

Eatalia is the brainchild of Fisher, 31, and a small consortium of partners with extensive restaurant experience. Despite his young age, Fisher intricately knows and understands the restaurant business having grown up in the industry. His father, Ian Fisher, is one of the co-founders and owners of the Firkin Group of Pubs, established in Toronto in 1987. Ryan grew up in the business bussing, washing dishes and waiting. He also learned about life as an entrepreneur and obviously holds the same entrepreneurial passion.

“Pub life is great but I was ready for something different and a little higher up on the casual scale,” says Fisher. “I'm very excited about this concept which eventually may be rolled out as a chain in similar fashion to the Firkin pubs ““ each space will be a little different but the menu will be the same across the board.”

A lot of work went into researching the right menu items and respective ingredients. The recipes are all authentic Italian and many of the ingredients come directly from Italy.  Only the best reggiano is used and true to tradition, polenta is used instead of potatoes for those wanting “French fries”.

The kitchen is overseen by Chef Jon Lovett, a native of Burlington. Lovett, 28, studied culinary arts at Georgian College and recently returned from travelling throughout Australia ““ using his skills and passion for food to work in local restaurants throughout his stay.

At Eatalia, Lovett brings his talents to the traditional Italian fare: authentic thin crust pizzas, rich beef ragu (Pappardelle alla Bolognese), veal scallopini, risotto and homemade pastas. Pizzas are made with Italian Double O flour, a high gluten flour, giving them a silky dough that can be stretched perfectly and turned into a thin crust. Pizzas are cooked in an authentic Italian oven, brought from Italy, at 750°F.

The recipes are classics but presented in modern ways: artfully arranged polenta fries on sides or individual ramekins of perfectly poached figs in fruity red wine with panna cotta.

The good food Fisher and Lovett describe is in abundance ““ as is the good wine: more than 50 labels, all consignment, 70 per cent of which are Italian. As this is a casual restaurant, wine glasses are eschewed for the more practical tumbler.

As for the good company ““ Fisher says that any restaurant's success is due to the people: the people who come in to enjoy the food and each other's company, but also the people who welcome and serve you.

“We are a very close knit group,” says Fisher. “We're 110 per cent a team. We work hard but we have a lot of fun along the way. I think the way we're all able to work together so well is noticed by our clientele who then have fun with us.” It's one big happy family ““ Italian-style.

““ 527 Brant Street, Burlington; 905.634.3300