petisco kitchen toronto

Chef laid off from top Toronto restaurant now has her own curbside Portuguese project

A Toronto chef temporarily laid off from one of the city's top South American restaurants is now opening her own Portuguese concept after her workplace closed in October 2020, and has been closed since.

Julie Marteleira was the executive chef at Lena prior to that time, a sparkling restaurant nestled in Toronto's once-bustling Financial District serving creative takes on South American cuisine. When she lost her job there, she started up Petisco Kitchen with her sister Jennifer and mom Joana.

"I guess you could say this is our silver lining that came out of this seemingly never-ending pandemic as this was our chance to launch a business that's from the heart," Jennifer Marteleira tells blogTO.

"Despite having our full-time jobs on hold, we're having so much fun with this new venture."

Petisco translates loosely to snack, appetizer or delicacy. Their family is Portuguese on both sides, hailing from the Trás-os-Montes region, and Lisbon where Jennifer and Julie spent their formative years.

Petisco's menu is based off of mom Joana's traditional recipes and the simple ingredients at the core of Portuguese cuisine like seafood, meat, olive oil, herbs, spices, tomato and salt cod.

Some of their best sellers are items like shrimp patties, beef croquettes, cod fritters, cod bras style, roasted octopus, feijoada (a popular white bean stew) and a salt cod and cream bake you might find at most Portuguese takeout places, but they're also known for harder-to-find dishes like monkfish rice, stuffed Dungeness crab and almond tarts.

They only make a limited amount of food for sale, so it's recommended that to order you DM them via Instagram or email early, at least 24 hours in advance, because although they do their best to accommodate everyone they often sell out. Deliveries are made Wednesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Their shrimp patties, cod fritters and frozen salt cod and cream bake are available at Newport Fish Importers and Cheese Boutique as well.

"One of the best parts of our day is delivering these delicious meals to our wonderful customers. They anticipate our arrival and often wave at the window, they already have the door open when we roll up, and they always tell us how excited they are to try the food. It's hilarious and so encouraging," says Marteleira.

"Our list of 'repeat offenders'  has grown so fast. So many have told us that our food reminds them of the time they visited Lisbon or Porto and that it's a nice form of escape during these trying times. We even made an order for a few couples that organized a virtual dinner in honour of their last trip to the Algarve in 2019."

The Marteleiras are planning on returning to their day jobs once things are more stable, but will try to keep Petisco Kitchen going, and have even toyed with the idea of opening a physical brick-and-mortar space.

"It would be a shame to let it fade," says Marteleira. "We love what we do."

Lead photo by

@juliemarteleira


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