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Grocery Stores

Valentino's Smokin Salmon

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on April 13, 2012

Valentino's Smokin SalmonValentino's Smokin Salmon is the new kid on the block when it comes to smoked fish, but the family-run shop has already landed on the shelves at Pusateri's, Fiesta Farms, Fresh & Wild, and and a handful of other Toronto groceries and restaurants.

The shop opened up on O'Connor at Pape this past September, moving from its former home on Laird where it spent the past three years. The mother and daughter team of Ann and Michelle Marsolais see through the entire operation, juggling research and recruitment, prep and production, as well as working the register and performing deliveries.

Valentino's Smokin Salmon"We're thinking about finally recruiting someone to work full time," Michelle tells me as she walks me through the smoking process. "We have three part-timers, but when they all can't make it, like today, it's up to us to try to get everything done."

The shop produces upwards of 200 pounds of cold-smoked salmon per week. That's on top of smoked trout and fresh fish offerings including haddock, Arctic char, red snapper, and fluke. But the smoked salmon, undoubtedly, is Valentino's main sell, which starts off with sushi-grade Atlantic Salmon sourced from a sustainable farm in New Brunswick.

Valentino's Smokin Salmon"We take all of the silver and grey off of it," Michelle says as she peels the skin off a slab of salmon and works it over with a knife. "This marbling here, you want that — that's where all of your Omega 3's are. But the brown is just cholesterol, and anyway, it's bitter."

"It tries to tell you it's not good for you," Ann pipes in. The smoking process is a front-of-house operation. The salmon is washed, scaled, and left in brine, then put into a clear glass smoker for about three hours, give or take. "It's a feel thing," Ann says. "You can tell when it's ready."

Valentino's Smokin SalmonValentino's started literally in Ann's backyard, where she and partner Valentino worked to hone the perfect smoked salmon recipe. "This picture," she says, pulling out a photo of Valentino at a makeshift smoker, "this was taken five days before he went into hospital." Ann says she stopped making smoked salmon after Valentino's death, but was eventually persuaded back to production by friends and family.

"Before, we were just making it for ourselves and for people we knew," Ann says. "But then I thought, I could really make a business out of it."

Valentino's Smokin SalmonSo Ann and her daughter began a wholesale business, and when they moved to O'Connor, added a retail market to the mix. "Really, it was just because people kept dropping looking for fresh fish," Michelle says. "A lot of what we do is based on customer requests."

That includes smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagel ($5) for area workers during lunch, and prepared meals to heat and serve (sourced from caterer clients) such as whole wheat mac and cheese infused with smoked salmon ($5). But if you ask Ann and Michelle about the best way to enjoy Valentino's smoked salmon, they'll look at you deadpan and respond plainly:

"With a fork."

Photos by Morris Lum



MrsPotato / April 13, 2012 at 02:29 pm
i wish i could appreciate smoked salmon. but i can't even smell the stuff without gagging.
Vlad / April 13, 2012 at 05:03 pm
best smoke salmon ever, and people working there are so friendly, you have to try it.
Aydin / April 14, 2012 at 08:56 am
This place is REALLY good. They're SUPER friendly - they will literally force free samples on you, which is great if you're too shy to ask!
And unlike Kristappson's (which I USED to go to), they actually slice it to order - no pre-wrapped paper packages.
The salmon is never frozen, and you can DEFINITELY taste it. If you're having people over, for an extra charge, they'll make a beautiful platter for you with the salmon and all the trimmings, and you can keep the plate! My friends were very impressed.
hoc replying to a comment from Aydin / April 14, 2012 at 03:55 pm
It's true, I was impressed by his spread.

This place sounds delicious!
Aydin replying to a comment from hoc / April 14, 2012 at 04:39 pm
YEAH you were, buddy!
Lynn Marie Robinson / April 30, 2012 at 06:06 pm
The smoked salmon is unbelievable. You must try it. Also, the fresh fish that is sold at Valentino's is amazing. last week we had rainbow trout that michelle fileted and deboned on site. used the smoker on the BBQ and that trout was fantastic. This past week, we had fresh salmon for the BBQ, smoked salmon to make eggs benny and a smoked salmon and whipped cream cheese dip that did not last with our company on Saturday night. This place is a great find.
Mandy Harvey / August 23, 2012 at 10:19 am
We just discovered this spot and are blown away by the quality, price and high level of customer service - they are fantastic! She also enjoys discussing where they bought the fish, quality of the water, mercury levels, etc...she was very up to speed on all of it and happy to share the info. I find it really educational as a shopper and a great experience. Highly recommended as a huge seafood lover!
Naw. / November 27, 2013 at 10:53 am
Sushi Grade in Canada literally means previously frozen. Since in Canada adhere to USFDA's Fish and Fisheries Products Hazards and Controls Guidance.

Atlantic Salmon is not sustainable and is not on the track to becoming so.

Do a little research on dioxins and you'll turn up stuff like this:
It's EU but it's still Atlantic Salmon.

The marbling comes from being fed corn - not a food fish would eat.
While I would be keen to eat this smoked fish I probably won't.
Michelle replying to a comment from Naw. / December 17, 2013 at 01:09 pm
Our Salmon is Grade A - never frozen and is Atlantic Salmon from Atlantic Canada.
All Atlantic salmon has marbling - and ours has extra angel shrimp that it is fed.
Every batch of our salmon is tested by the MNR incoming and we use only Northern Harvest eco system farm in New Brunswick!

Michelle replying to a comment from Naw. / December 17, 2013 at 01:13 pm
I have one enemy in this world and only one - Graham find somthing better to do with your life.
thank you
Lupin replying to a comment from MrsPotato / December 18, 2013 at 10:00 pm
What kind of smoked salmon did you have there are two kinds, Cold and hot smoked. If you can't handle one you should try the other :)
Michelle / December 19, 2013 at 04:37 pm
We have cold smoked fish only, sorry.
We also have fresh fish available daily and we offer a variety of different cold smoked fish.

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